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Russia aiming to drive Turkmen from Syria, says leader

December 16, 2015 at 2:47 pm

Russian airstrikes are systematically targeting the infrastructure of Turkmen areas of northwest Syria to prevent their return, a senior rebel commander said Wednesday.

Ahmet Arnavut, who controls Turkmen forces in the Bayirbucak region, said Russia aimed to wipe out the Turkmen presence in Latakia province.

“Within a month, Russia did what the regime could not since the beginning of the war,” he told Anadolu Agency.

He added: “They are hitting vacant villages with bombers and helicopters. They are sending a message to Turkmen by destroying houses where no one lives – ‘There is nothing left for you here. Don’t think about returning’.”

Read: Turkey provides refuge for Turkmen fleeing homes in Syria

Arnavut said mosques, schools, hospitals, roads and homes had been targeted by the air attacks.

Turkmen areas in northwest Syria have been under heavy attack from Russian-backed Syrian government forces since mid-November.

Thousands of Turkmen, a Turkish ethnic group largely based in Syria and Iraq, have been displaced by the fighting around Bayirbucak. Around 2,000 Syrian Turkmen have crossed into southern Turkey in recent weeks.