Syrian opposition, Kurds condemn Afrin looting

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Turkish-backed Syrian fighters loot shops after seizing control of the northwestern Syrian city of Afrin from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) on March 18, 2018

Syria opposition leaders and Kurdish officials on Monday condemned reported looting by Turkish-led forces who seized the Kurdish-majority city of Afrin the previous day.

Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies made a lightning advance into the city after Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia appeared to have retreated.

AFP reporters in Afrin and a war monitor said Turkish-backed Syrian forces went on a rampage after taking the city, pillaging shops and homes.

A rebel leader early Monday condemned their behaviour.

"The looting and stealing of private and public property is a crime," said Mohamed Alloush, a key figure in the Jaish al-Islam rebel group.

"All those who took part in this decadence need to have their hands slapped hard," he said on Twitter, calling for them to face trial and for victims to receive compensation.

The fighters broke into shops, restaurants and houses and left with foodstuff, electronic equipment, blankets and other goods, the AFP reporters said.

They placed the loot in cars and small trucks and drove them out of the city, they added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor also reported looting, saying Turkey's Syrian allies "have begun pillaging private property, political and military sites and shops".

The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on sources across Syria for its information, has reported looting in several villages since pro-Ankara forces on January 20 launched an assault on the wider Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

Khaled Khoja, a former head of the National Coalition leading opposition body, said: "We were unsettled by the news of some looting from the homes of our people in Afrin."

He said the goal of the Turkish-led operation was "to liberate our Kurdish and Arab brothers from the authoritarianism of the YPG and serve them by establishing a civilian administration worthy of the Syrian revolution."

There is no place for "highway robbers" among opposition fighters, he said.

Kurdish leader Abdel Basset Sida, who resigned from the National Coalition after the start of the Turkish assault, also condemned the damage wreaked on Afrin city.

"The destruction of the Kawa Haddad statue... and the looting of shops and homes is morally deplorable," he said, referring to a monument to Kurdish hero Kawa Haddad, torn from its mantle on Sunday.

The loss of Afrin comes as Kurds prepare to mark the spring festival of Nowruz on Wednesday.

The National Kurdish Council, part of a key opposition negotiating committee, condemned "actions insulting to the Kurds" including the destruction of the statue.