Car bomb kills at least 13 in northern Syria border town

A car bomb in a Syrian border town killed at least 13 people Saturday, Turkish authorities said.

Turkish soldiers in border town of Tal Abyad in northern Syria, are shown on October 18. File Photo courtesy of the Turkish Defense Ministry

The blast also injured at least 20 people, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry blamed the People’s Protection Units, known as YPG for the attack, but no group claimed responsibility immediately. Turkey considers the YPG, which is an arm of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, to be a terror group; the United State doesn’t.

The blast occurred in Tal Abyad town, which Turkish troops and Turkey-backed rebels seized last month, from Kurdish forces as U.S. troops assisting the Kurds left.

Civilians were among the dead, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

President Donald Trump ordered troops to withdraw from northern Syria last month ahead of a Turkish military incursion to expel Kurdish forces from the region. The move drew bipartisan criticism from lawmakers accusing Trump of abandoning Kurdish forces aligned with the United States to fight the Islamic State.

The incursion, which Turkey calls Operation Peace Spring, was launched on Oct. 9 in northern Syria to remove terrorists from northern Syria and secure the border.

Ankara and Moscow reached a deal weeks later, on Oct. 22, to create a “terror-free safe zone” in northern Syria shortly before a five-day cease-fire was set to expire.

Under the deal, the YPG, made up of mostly ethnic minority Kurdish fighters who have been battling the Islamic State, had until Tuesday to withdraw from the zone or face Turkish-Russian patrols.

Turkish forces have created a 75-mile “safe zone” between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain towns.

Amnesty International said in a report last week that Turkey has forced “hundreds” of Syrian refugees back into the war zone against international law in advance of creating the “safe zone.”

On Friday, Turkish troops began joint patrols with Russian forces.

BySommer Brokaw