Four Turkish soldiers killed by cross-border Kurdish militant attacks

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Four Turkish soldiers were killed and two others wounded in two separate cross-border attacks by Kurdish militants on Saturday, the defense ministry said, adding that the army had retaliated in both cases.

One Turkish soldier was killed and another was lightly wounded after an attack by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in the mainly Kurdish-controlled northern Syrian region of Tel Rifaat, the defense ministry said in a statement.

The attack took place in a region where Turkey carried out a cross-border operation dubbed Euphrates Shield in 2016, aimed at driving ISIS militants and the YPG from its border with Syria, the ministry said.

It said the army had retaliated with artillery fire but gave no further details on the whereabouts of the attack.

Three other Turkish soldiers were killed and another wounded in the southeastern province of Hakkari, which borders northern Iraq, after Kurdish militants shelled the region, the defense ministry said in a separate statement.

It said the military had returned fire and launched a cross-border operation in the region backed by fighter jets to destroy the militant targets.

Turkey’s military has regularly carried out air strikes against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. It also shelled YPG positions in the Tel Rifaat region earlier this year, saying this was in response to YPG fire.

Tel Rifaat is controlled by Kurdish-led forces and is located some 20 km east of Afrin, which has been under the control of Turkey and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) allies since an operation last year to drive out the YPG.

Turkey, which has long been one of the main backers of rebel groups fighting against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, has conducted patrols with Russia, one of Assad’s main allies, in northern areas under agreements reached last year.

In March, the defense ministry said Turkish and Russian forces had carried out the first “independent and coordinated” patrols in Tel Rifaat

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