Syria Kurds say will defend enclave from Turkish 'scourges'

The Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) is considered a terrorist threat by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently threatened an operation against towns in Syria held by YPG (AFP Photo/DELIL SOULEIMAN) (AFP/File)

Beirut (AFP) - The head of a powerful Kurdish militia hit back on Tuesday at Turkish threats to attack its forces in northern Syria, pledging to "cleanse" the area of Ankara's "scourges".

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday vowed to soon launch an operation against towns in Syria held by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers "terrorists".

The YPG, a key US ally in the fight against jihadists, controls key urban hubs in northern Syria including the towns of Afrin and Manbij.

In an interview published Tuesday with Kurdish news agency ANF, YPG chief Sipan Hemo said his forces stood "ready" to defend those towns against a Turkish assault.

"Our forces will be able to cleanse the area from Erdogan's scourges, just as we were able to cleanse it from Daesh," Hemo said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

"This is what the war in Afrin will be like," he said.

With US backing, the YPG has cleared swathes of territory in northern and eastern Syria from IS and has established semi-autonomous rule in those areas.

And at the weekend, the US-led coalition fighting IS said it was working to create a 30,000-strong border security force in northern Syria that would deploy along the Turkish frontier.

Ankara immediately objected to such a move out of fear the new force would be comprised of the YPG, which it accuses of being a branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has waged an insurgency in Turkey since 1984.

Erdogan has long threatened an operation against the YPG's enclave in Afrin but has stepped up his threats in recent days.

On Tuesday, he warned an assault on Afrin could take place "tomorrow, (or) the day after, (or) within a short period".

"We will foil Erdogan's filthy plans. We will turn those plans to major victories for the people of the region, the Kurdish, Syrian, and Turkish people," Hemo pledged on Tuesday.

Erdogan has said the Afrin operation would be undertaken "together" with Syrian rebels, whom Ankara has backed in other operations against the YPG and IS.