BEIRUT - A rocket attack on a northern Syrian town controlled by Turkey-backed opposition fighters killed six civilians and wounded over a dozen people on Thursday, Syrian rescuers and a war monitor said. Both blamed U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces for the attack.
The town of Afrin has been under the control of Turkey and its allied Syrian opposition fighters since 2018, following a Turkey-backed military operation that pushed Syrian Kurdish fighters and thousands of Kurdish residents from the area.
Since then, Afrin and surrounding villages have been the site of attacks on Turkish and Turkey-backed targets. Ankara considers Kurdish fighters who control a swath of Syrian territory along Turkey's border to be terrorists, allied with Kurdish insurgents within Turkey.
Syrians gather around a burning car hit by a shell, in the town of Afrin, north of Aleppo, Jan. 20, 2022, in this photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets.
Turkey has carried out three military offensives into Syria, mostly to drive the Syrian Kurdish militia away from its border.
The White Helmets, a Syrian civil defense group operating in opposition-held areas, said the rockets also caused a fire in a residential area of Afrin which its volunteers put out. In a White Helmets video, rescuers are seen pulling a burned, lifeless body from a damaged building as others are putting out a raging fire that also left a couple of vehicles charred.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a war-monitoring group, also put the death toll at six, saying two children were among the killed and 30 people were wounded.
This photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents, shows a Syrian White Helmet civil defense worker, left, helping an injured man, in the town of Afrin, north of Aleppo, Jan. 20, 2022.
Syrian Kurdish fighters were allied with the U.S.-led coalition in the fight against Islamic State militants who captured a third of Iraq and Syria in 2014. IS was defeated, and Kurdish forces have since created an autonomous administration in northeastern Syria, where a small U.S. force is still based.
Also Thursday, the Kurdish-led forces reported an attempted escape from a prison in northeastern Syria that holds IS militants. According to the report, militants first started to riot inside the Ghuwayran prison in the city of al-Hasaka, but the Kurdish forces subdued the riots.
This was followed by a car bomb, which was detonated in a facility for storing and distributing petroleum products close to the prison. After this, clashes ensued with security forces in the area.
It was not immediately clear if any prisoners had managed to escape as the situation continued to develop late into the evening. SOHR said the U.S-led coalition provided air cover for the Kurdish-led forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces.