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Several Turkey-backed rebels killed in clashes in northern Syria

The Turkish military says at least 15 Syrian rebels fighting with Turkish troops have been killed by mines laid by 'IS' militants. Turkey is engaged in an operation to clear Syrian border regions of the jihadists.

Clashes in northern Syria in the last 24 hours have claimed the lives of at least 15 Syrian rebels who were fighting with Turkish troops against the extremist group "Islamic State" (IS), the Turkish military said Monday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has been monitoring the Syrian conflict by means of a network of activists on the ground, put the toll at more than 20 killed, and said the Turkey-backed rebels were killed by landmines laid by the jihadist group.

The Observatory said dozens more rebels were wounded in the clashes, which occurred while they were attempting to secure the village of Turkmen Bari with the backing of Turkish special forces and the air force. No Turkish troops were mentioned among the casualties.

Observatory head Rami Abdurrahman said the jihadists had heavily mined the area after being forced to withdraw.

The monitor group also said the rebel forces were trying to reach the town of Dabiq, which figures in IS propaganda as the place where Christian and Muslim forces will clash in an epic battle that will see a victory for Islam. Dabiq has been held by IS since August 2014, and gives its name to the extremists' online magazine.

'Justified incursion'

Turkish forces entered Syria on August 24 in an operation dubbed "Euphrates Shield" that Ankara says is targeting not just IS, but also Kurdish fighters from thePeople's Protection Units (YPG).Turkey regards the YPG, which has been a key ally of the US-led coalition also fighting IS, as a "terrorist" group, and says its operation in Syria aims to restrict the Syrian Kurds from making territorial gains and moving closer to self-rule.

Ankara's incursion, which it says is allowed under international law, came after number of attacks by IS militants on Turkish cities. The operation's biggest success up to now has been to recapture the border town of Jarablus from the hands of the extremist group. 

The statement by the Turkish military also said that 13 IS militants had been killed in 11 airstrikes by the US-backed coalition on Monday.

tj/se (Reuters, AFP)

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