Al-Qaeda fighters attacked the Syrian Kurdish towns of Atma and Jandaris today, attempting once again to gain a foothold on West Kurdistan’s border with Turkey.
The attacks sparked a day of fighting with fighters from the PYD, a Kurdish militia linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has mobilized in increasing numbers and is determined to keep Kurdish territory from falling to foreign Islamists.
Seven al-Qaeda fighters were killed in the clashes, and two Kurdish women were also slain in a mortar attack. The towns appear to have remained under Kurdish control as of the end of the day, but fighting is likely not over.
Syria’s Kurds have attempted to remain independent from both the Assad government and the rebels, and have carved out increased autonomy in their region. Close proximity to Turkey, a backer of rebels, is making them a target.
As various rebel factions try to get a leg up over one another, border crossings with Turkey have come at a premium as a way to smuggle weapons and fighters into the country. Kurdish crossings have been a source of major clashes.