Turkey says captured 18 people in Syria: ministry

ISTANBUL: Turkey has captured 18 people in Syria who said they were from the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the defence ministry said Tuesday.

“Eighteen people who claimed to be regime elements were captured alive in the southeast of Ras al-Ain” a key border town, during reconnaissance activities, the ministry said. 

Turkey was investigating in coordination with the Russian authorities, it added.

Turkey and Russia agreed last week that Syrian Kurdish fighters would be removed from areas along the Turkish-Syrian border.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, had assured him that Syrian Kurdish fighters would not be allowed to stay in Syria along the Turkish border wearing “regime clothes”.

A 150-hour deadline given for the pullout of the Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters expired at 1500 GMT Tuesday, and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Kurdish forces had withdrawn as planned.

Fahrettin Altun, the communications director at the presidency, said the joint patrols by Russia and Turkey would verify whether or not the fighters had retreated.

Ankara says the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in Syria is a terror group linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Kurdish insurgent group outlawed in Turkey.