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Turkish forces push into Syria

Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army fighters are seen in al Ajami village in east al Bab, Syria, Feb. 3, 2018. (Photo: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)

Turkish forces push into Syria

Turkey said eight of its troops were killed Saturday in Ankara’s military operation against a Syrian Kurdish militia, the deadliest day in the two-week-old offensive in the enclave of Afrin, while in another part of Syria, al-Qaida-linked militants downed a Russian fighter jet, then shot and killed the pilot.

In a statement late Saturday, the Turkish military said five soldiers were killed after their tank in Syria came under attack near Afrin. The soldiers could not be saved despite all attempts, it said.

Earlier in the day, three Turkish soldiers were reported killed in the Afrin offensive — one was killed in the area of the tank attack, another in northern Syria and the third on the Turkish side of the border in what Ankara said was an attack by Syrian Kurdish militiamen.

The total death toll for Turkish troops since the operation, codenamed Olive Branch, started on Jan. 20 now stands at 13.

Turkey launched the incursion into Afrin to rout the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the People’s Protection Units or YPG, which it considers to be a terrorist organization and an extension of Kurdish insurgents fighting within Turkey. (AP)

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