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At least 36 dead after Turkish forces hit pro-Syrian government troops in Afrin

Turkish forces have hit pro-Syrian government troops in the country’s north-western Afrin region, killing at least 36 people.

The strike targeted a camp in Kafr Jina on Saturday, the third time in 48 hours Turkish warplanes launched attacks on pro-government forces in Afrin, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Pro-Syrian government forces entered Afrin last week in support of the Kurdish YPG militia, who are the target of a campaign, launched by Turkey and allied Syrian rebel fighters in January, codenamed Operation Olive Branch.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a YPG-led militia alliance, said in a statement that Turkish airstrikes had targeted positions held by the Syrian army’s “popular forces” in a five-hour barrage.

The SDF did not say where, or give a death toll, but the Observatory said at least 36 people had been killed.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said his country’s forces had captured the town of Rajo from militants. 

The Observatory said the Turkish army was in control of about 70 per cent of the town, roughly 16 miles northwest of Afrin city.

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It estimates more than 300 fighters on all sides of the conflict have been killed since the Turkish operation launched in Afrin at the beginning of the year.

In a statement, the SDF said a group of Turkish forces and allied Syrian factions had infiltrated Rajo, where it said clashes were continuing between SDF forces and the rebels.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency in Turkey.

It is judged to be a terrorist group by the Turkish government, the United States and the European Union.

However, the YPG has also served as an important ally for the United States in the fight against Islamic State.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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