Turkish army hit village in Syria's Afrin with suspected gas - Kurdish YPG, Observatory

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Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighter holds a weapon in Northern Afrin countryside

Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighter holds a weapon in Northern Afrin countryside, Syria, February 16, 2018. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian Kurdish forces and a monitoring group said the Turkish military carried out a suspected gas attack that wounded six people in Syria's Afrin region on Friday.

There was no immediate comment from the Turkish military, which has previously denied accusations of hitting civilians in its Afrin operation.

Birusk Hasaka, a spokesman for the Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin, told Reuters that Turkish bombardment hit a village in the northwest of the region, near the Turkish border. He said it caused six people to suffer breathing problems and other symptoms indicative of a gas attack.

Turkey launched an air and ground offensive last month on the Afrin region, opening a new front in the multi-sided Syrian war to target Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters that Turkish forces and their Syrian insurgent allies hit the village on Friday with shells. The Britain-based war monitoring group said medical sources in Afrin reported that six people in the attack suffered breathing difficulties and dilated pupils, indicating a suspected gas attack.

Syrian state news agency SANA, citing a doctor in a Afrin hospital, said Turkish shelling of the village caused choking in six people.

On Feb. 6, the United Nations called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Syria.

Since the onset of the conflict in 2011, the YPG and its allies have set up three autonomous cantons in the north, including Afrin. Their sphere of influence expanded as they seized territory from Islamic State with U.S. help, though Washington opposes their autonomy plans as does the Syrian government.

U.S. support for Kurdish-led forces in Syria has infuriated Ankara, which views them as a security threat along its frontier. Turkey sees the YPG as terrorists and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has waged a three-decade insurgency on Turkish soil.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis in Beirut and Rodi Said in northern Syria; Additional reporting by Daren Butler in Istanbul; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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