Two Turkish soldiers killed in Kurdish militant attack in Syria: ministry

ANKARA (Reuters) - Two Turkish soldiers were killed after a mortar attack hit the area near a military post in a part of northern Syria where Ankara mounted an operation against Kurdish militants last year, the defense ministry said on Friday.

The attack comes as Turkey stepped up its air and artillery strikes on the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in northeast Syria on Friday, escalating an offensive that has drawn criticism from Ankara’s western allies and sparked warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Turkey has carried out two previous cross-border operations to clear its southern border of Kurdish militants. The latest of these, dubbed “Operation Olive Branch,” wrested the Afrin region in northern Syria from the hands of Syrian Kurdish forces.

In a statement, the defense ministry said the two soldiers were killed after YPG militants hit the area where a Turkish military post is located, inside what it called the “Olive Branch region”. It did not give any further details.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer