Turkish-backed militants have seized two Kurdish-held villages in Syria
, inching closer to Manbij, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to capture.
According to a statement released by the Turkish-backed militants, who are part of Turkey’s Euphrates Shield military campaign in Syria, the villages of Tal Turin and Qara, located to the east of al-Bab, were seized following heavy clashes with the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The SDF is a coalition of Arab fighters and forces from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), who are currently in control of nearly all of Syria’s entire northern border with Turkey.
On Tuesday, Erdogan announced that after Turkey’s forces complete their operations in al-Bab, they will move towards the Kurdish-held city of Manbij.
A member of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) flashes the sign of victory in the northern Syrian town of Manbij on August 14, 2016, more than a week after the SDF, an Arab-Kurdish alliance, pushed the Daesh out of the city.
Kurdish forces, mainly the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and its military wing, the YPG, liberated the northern Syrian city of Manbij from Daesh last year.
Turkish authorities first announced the capture of al-Bab last month. They have made similar claims at least twice since then.
Turkey began its military intervention in Syria in August 2016, sending tanks and warplanes across the border. Ankara claimed that its military campaign was aimed at pushing Daesh from Turkey’s border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish forces, but Damascus denounced the operation as a breach of its sovereignty.
Russia denies bombing US-backed militants in Syria
Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry rejected claims made by Washington that Russian and Syrian aircraft had bombed positions held by US-backed Syrian militants.
“We had some Russian aircraft Syrian aircraft bomb some villages that I believe they thought were held by Daesh,” said US Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, adding that the airstrikes were carried out on villages close to al-Bab, where “some of our Syrian Arab coalition forces” are located.
This video grab created on August 16, 2016, taken from a footage released by the Russian Defense Ministry’s official website, shows a Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3 bomber conducting airstrikes in Syria.
“Not a single airstrike on the regions specified by the US side was conducted by Russian or Syrian air forces,” said a statement released by Russia.
“To avoid any incidents, the US representative has provided exact coordinates of the US-backed opposition forces in the region to a Russian officer,” it added.
Russian air force fighters have been striking armed terrorists across Syria, including Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terror groups, at the official request of the government of President Bashar al-Assad since September 30, 2015.