April 28, 2016 / 5:52 PM / 2 years ago

U.S-backed Syrian fighters battle insurgents north of Aleppo, dozens killed

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Fierce clashes between U.S.-backed Syrian fighters and insurgent groups north of Aleppo killed dozens of combatants, a spokesman and a monitoring group said on Thursday.

The Syria Democratic Forces alliance, which includes the powerful Kurdish YPG militia, has been fighting insurgents, some also supported by foreign states via Turkey, in northern Aleppo province for several months.

Washington, which is leading an aerial campaign against Islamic State, supports the SDF in the separate fight against the jihadists around areas they control farther east. The YPG has proved the most effective partner on the ground for the U.S.-led campaign.

SDF spokesman Talal Selo said that in the latest clashes, the alliance fought on Wednesday in the villages of Ain Doqneh and al-Bayluniya, around 15 km (9 miles) from the Turkish border, killing more than 60 insurgents.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group, said 11 SDF fighters were killed in the clashes and 53 fighters from the other groups.

The Observatory said those groups had launched an attack to try to take back areas the SDF seized in recent weeks.

The presence of YPG forces along the border with Turkey has alarmed Ankara, which is anxious to stop encroachment by Syrian Kurdish forces as it fights its own insurgency against Kurdish militants in southeastern Turkey.

Turkey has shelled Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Aleppo province.

Kurdish forces already control an uninterrupted 400 km (250 mile) stretch along the Syrian-Turkish border.

Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Dominic Evans

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