Turkey says reports of Kurdish militia withdrawal from Manbij ‘exaggerated’

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A picture taken on April 3, 2018 shows vehicles of US-backed coalition forces driving in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. On the outskirts of Syria's Manbij, Kurdish-led fighters have dug trenches and US-led coalition soldiers patrol from land and sky after Turkey threatened to overrun the northern city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor with sources on the ground, says around 350 members of the US-led coalition -- mostly American troops -- are stationed around Manbij. / AFP PHOTO / Delil SOULEIMAN

Reports that Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters have completely left Syria’s Manbij region are exaggerated as their withdrawal is still underway, Reuters reported on Monday, citing a source at Turkey’s foreign ministry.

Turkey and the United States reached a deal last month over Manbij, a town in northern Syria, after months of disagreement. Under the deal, the YPG would withdraw from Manbij and Turkish and US forces would maintain security and stability around the town.

The militia controlling Manbij said the last YPG fighters had left on Sunday after completing their mission of military training of local forces. The Manbij Military Council, which controls the town, has repeatedly said there were no YPG fighters there, only some YPG military advisers.

“We find reports that the PYD/YPG have completely withdrawn from Manbij to be exaggerated. The process is still continuing,” the source said.

“Withdrawal from the checkpoints on the patrol route is ongoing. Joint patrol preparations are continuing. Therefore, at this stage, reports that PYD/YPG have completely withdrawn from Manbij do not reflect the truth.”

The PYD is the political arm of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which is backed by the United States in the fight against the Islamic State. That support has infuriated Ankara, which sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The PKK, considered a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union and Turkey, has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish Southeast. Ankara fears advances by the YPG in Syria will embolden Kurdish militants at home.

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