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Syrian jihadist leader backs Turkish military operation against Kurds

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Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, head of Syria’s radical jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), on Monday voiced support for Turkey’s plans to carry out a military operation against Kurdish militants in the country’s north, according to Lebanon’s Daily Star.

The remarks of al-Jolani, who heads a group dominated by members of the former Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, came as Turkey threatens to launch a cross-border offensive, its third since the start of a civil war in Syria in 2011, against the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which controls most of northeastern Syria.

Ankara has vowed to destroy the YPG, which it considers the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s Southeast since 1984.

While not offering direct military support, al-Jolani made clear he supported the YPG’s removal from eastern Syria, where it has spearheaded the US war on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Daily Star said.

“We consider the PKK to be an enemy of this revolution. It controls areas inhabited by large numbers of Sunni Arabs,” al-Jolani told the HTS-affiliated Amjad media outlet, in reference to the YPG. “We are in favor of this region being liberated from the PKK.”

HTS took full control of the northern Syrian region of Idlib over the past week following deadly fighting with other factions backed by Turkey.

Analysts have asserted that HTS struck a deal with Turkish-backed forces to take control of Idlib as part of a move to possibly clearing the way for Turkey to attack Syria’s Kurdish militia.

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