Amnesty accuses Turkey of 'war crimes' in Syria

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters walk down a street in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad on Oct 17, 2019, as Turkey and its allies continue their assault on Kurdish-held border towns in north-east Syria. PHOTO: AFP

BEIRUT (AFP) - Turkish forces and Syrian rebel allies have committed "war crimes" including summary executions during their offensive in north-east Syria, Amnesty International said on Friday (Oct 18).

Amnesty accused Ankara's forces of "serious violations and war crimes, summary killings and unlawful attacks" in the operation launched on Oct 9.

There was no immediate response from Ankara, which announced a suspension of the attacks late Thursday, but it says all possible measures have been taken to avoid civilian casualties.

Ankara's operation aims to remove the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) from areas near its border in northern Syria.

The offensive has killed at least 72 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"Turkish military forces and a coalition of Turkey-backed Syrian armed groups have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life," Amnesty said.

The charges were based on the testimony of 17 people including medical, aid and rescue workers, journalists and displaced people, as well as video footage, it said.

"The information gathered provides damning evidence of indiscriminate attacks in residential areas, including attacks on a home, a bakery and a school, carried out by Turkey and allied Syrian armed groups," Amnesty said.

Kumi Naidoo, the organisation's secretary general, said Turkish forces and their allies had "displayed an utterly callous disregard for civilian lives".

The report included testimony of a Kurdish Red Crescent worker who said he removed bodies from the wreckage of a Turkish air strike near a school in Salhiye on Oct 12.

"I couldn't tell if they were boys or girls because their corpses were black. They looked like charcoal," the rescue worker was quoted as saying.

It also said Kurdish female politician Hevrin Khalaf and her bodyguard were summarily executed by members of the Syrian National Army, a Turkish-funded and -trained group.

At least two more executions of Kurdish fighters were confirmed, while Turkey's Syrian allies had kidnapped two employees of a local medical organisation, Amnesty said.

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