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Kurdish and pro-Assad forces battle in northern Syria

Deadly clashes between Kurdish and pro-Assad forces in and around Qamishli in northern Syria continued into a second night on Thursday.

Both sides have suffered casualties and there are reports of civilian deaths and injuries, but differing figures have been reported by both sides.

Known by Kurds as Qamişlo, the town is on the Turkish border in Hasakah province and is the de facto capital of the Kurdish Supreme Committee-controlled territories in northern Syria known as Rojava, or western Kurdistan.

The KSC controls much of Qamishli, while the Syrian army (SAA) and other forces loyal to the Assad government control an enclave including the town’s airport and border crossing with Turkey, along with a number of villages outside the town.

Tensions between the two sides have previously led to clashes, notably just over a month ago when a Kurd-led assembly voted to move towards the declaration of a autonomous federal state within Syria.

Fighting started on Wednesday at a vehicle checkpoint in the town after a dispute between the Kurdish Asayish security service and pro-Assad National Defence Forces militia members and quickly intensified and spread across the town.

Asayish forces were joined by the elite HAT anti-terrorist unit and by the military People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Much of the fighting on Thursday focused on the NDF-held Allya prison. It was eventually taken by Kurdish forces and around 50 NDF members surrendered, AFP reports.

There were reports of a number of civilian deaths after shelling of residential areas by pro-Assad forces, and of snipers operating in the town. Overflights by regime military aircraft were also reported.

Some Qamishli residents have fled the town.

Fighting was reported near the airport on Thursday evening, and overnight in nearby villages controlled by pro-Assad forces.

There were also reports of an Islamic State suicide bomb attack on Kurdish forces earlier on Thursday.

Reports of YPG forces battling the SAA cannot be verified. Kurds and Syrian government forces have maintained an uneasy truce since the start of the Syrian war. Last year, Kurdish, Arab and other groups came together under the Syrian Defence Forces umbrella, and have focused on fighting Islamic State and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in northern Syria, although some Turkey-backed groups in the rebel Free Syrian Army say that the SDF attacked and overran their positions in Aleppo province earlier in the year as it expanded its zone of control.

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