ISTANBUL - Four Turkish soldiers were killed in a car bomb attack in northeast Syria on Wednesday, the Turkish Defence Ministry said in a statement overnight.
It said the attack occurred during a roadside security check in the region east of the Euphrates river in Syria, where Turkey carried out a military operation with allied Syrian rebels in October.
The Turkish incursion targeted the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which spearheaded the US-led war against Islamic State and which Ankara regards as a terrorist group tied to militants fighting an insurgency in southeast Turkey.
No further details on the attack were immediately available.
Car bomb attacks have intensified against Turkish soldiers in the Syrian province of Tal Abyad since Turkey seized it in a military operation last October.
Turkey in October launched a cross-border operation south of its frontier against Syrian Kurdish forces, which was met with criticism from the United States, Russia and other Western powers.
In the two months since the operation began, it has established a so-called "safe zone" in a 120-kilometre-long strip along the border, where it says it wants to resettle Syrian refugees.
The plan has heightened concerns that Turkey may be preparing to pressure Syrian refugees to return to an area that remains unsafe, and that it might intend to alter the demographics of the region, preventing the region’s Kurdish population to return to their traditional lands following Erdogan’s invasion in October.
“Turkey is building a model settlement for Syrian refugees inside an area of northern Syria captured during its cross-border military operation in October,” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay told Anadolu state news agency said last week.
“We are working on an area where the Syrians can live and the Syrians in Turkey can return voluntarily,” Oktay said. "We are thinking of building an area in 2020 that can serve as a model, at least physically.”