Up to 20,000 refugees have crossed from Syria into Iraqi Kurdistan in the past three days, apparently fleeing fighting between Kurdish militias of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Salafist factions led by the Nusra Front. The PYD reportedly drove Salafist forces from the northeastern town of Ras al-Ain, taking control of a border post on the Turkish frontier. But the Salafists are apparenlty launching bloody reprisals, with refugees who have fled to Iraq reporting massacres in Kurdish villages.
PYD leader Salih Muslim has assured the Syrian opposition as well as Turkey that the de-facto autonomy in the areas under its control is only a temporary measure until the rebellion is victorious, and that it is not seeking an independent Kurdish state. Col Abdel Jabbar al-Oqaidi, head of the military council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Aleppo, recently accused the PYD of siding with the regime, and vowed in a video statement to destroy it. The Kurdish National Council (KNC), a coalition of 10 other Kurdish parties, rejected the autonomy move, saying that the Kurdish problem can best be addressed through the creation of a democratic and pluralistic state that upholds the rights of all its citizens, including Kurds. The KNC criticised the PYD for taking a step "towards secession." (BBC News, BBC News, Aug. 18; Ahram Online, Aug. 14)
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