Turkey said eight of its troops were killed Saturday in Ankara’s military operation against a Syrian Kurdish militia, the deadliest day in the two-week-old offensive in the enclave of Afrin, while in another part of Syria, al-Qaida-linked militants downed a Russian fighter jet, then shot and killed the pilot.
In a statement late Saturday, the Turkish military said five soldiers were killed after their tank in Syria came under attack near Afrin. The soldiers could not be saved despite all attempts, it said.
Earlier in the day, three Turkish soldiers were reported killed in the Afrin offensive — one was killed in the area of the tank attack, another in northern Syria and the third on the Turkish side of the border in what Ankara said was an attack by Syrian Kurdish militiamen.
The total death toll for Turkish troops since the operation, codenamed Olive Branch, started on Jan. 20 now stands at 13.
Turkey launched the incursion into Afrin to rout the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the People’s Protection Units or YPG, which it considers to be a terrorist organization and an extension of Kurdish insurgents fighting within Turkey. (AP)
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Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army fighters are seen in al Ajami village in east al Bab, Syria, Feb. 3, 2018. (Photo: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)
Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters are seen near Mount Barsaya in Qastal village, Azaz city Syria, Feb. 1, 2018. (Photo: Osman Orsal/Reuters)
A Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighter stands guard at a checkpoint as a family passes on motobike in the Syrian town of Azaz on a road leading to Afrin, on Feb. 1, 2018. (Photo: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images)
Kurdish fighters, fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army, hold weapons as they walk in northern Aleppo countryside, Syria, Feb. 1, 2018. (Photo: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)
Smoke rises in the air from Turkish forces shelling inside Syria, as seen from the outskirts of the town of Kilis, Turkey, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. (Photo: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)
A restaurant worker, wounded in a rocket attack, fired from inside Syria, walks to an ambulance in the border town of Kilis, Turkey, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. Kilis and the town of Reyhanli, both of which border Afrin, Syria, have been the target of multiple rocket attacks that have killed at least four people, including a teenage girl and injured dozens of others. (Photo: Can Erok/DHA-Depo Photos via AP)
Turkish Army tanks are seen near the Turkish-Syrian border in Kilis province, Turkey, Jan. 31, 2018. (Photo: Osman Orsal/Reuters)
Turkish forces are seen on Mount Barsaya, northeast of Afrin, Syria, Jan. 28, 2018. (Photo: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)
Syrian Kurds mourn during a funeral in the town of Afrin on Jan. 29, 2018, of civilians and fighters from the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) who were killed in battles in Syria’s border region of Afrin as the Turkish army press an offensive against Kurdish militia in the area. (Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)
A pro-Turkey Syrian fighter waves on Bursayah hill, which separates the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin from the Turkey-controlled town of Azaz, Syria, Jan. 28, 2018. Syria’s Kurdish militia is growing frustrated with its patron, the United States, and is pressing it to do more to stop Turkeyâs assault on Afrin. Their complaints reflect the differing agendas. The Kurds want to ensure their self-rule, while the U.S. wants them to focus on governing the territory they wrested from IS militants. (Photo: AP)
Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army fighters fire a mortar in Barsaya mountain, northeast of Afrin, Syria, Jan. 28, 2018. (Photo: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)
Kilis resident Fevziye Demir (C) hugs her father after a rocket fired from Syria hit her house on Jan. 23, 2018 in Kilis, at the border with Syria, southern Turkey. (Photo: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish forces are seen on Mount Barsaya in northeast of Afrin, Syria, Jan. 28, 2018. (Photo: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)
Members of Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army police forces patrol in Azaz, Syria, Jan. 26, 2018. (Photo: Umit Bektas/Reuters)
A Turkish police officer secures the area after a building was hit by a rocket fired from Syria, in the border town of Kilis, Turkey, Jan. 22, 2018. (Photo: Osman Orsal/Reuters)
Empty shells are seen next to a Turkish army howitzer on the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province, Turkey Jan. 23, 2018. (Photo: Umit Bektas/Reuters)
Kurdish protesters hold flags during a protest in front of the Russian embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 22, 2018. (Photo: Jamal Saidi/Reuters)
Men hold up the sign of Turkish Cypriot newspaper Afrika, which was attacked by supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday over the newspaper’s headlines criticising the Turkish army’s campaign in Afrin in northern Syria, in the Turkish-administered northern part of Nicosia, Cyprus, Jan. 22, 2018. (Photo: Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters)
Turkish troops advance near the Syria border at Hassa, Hatay province, on Jan. 22, 2018, as part of the operation “Olive Branch,” launched two days ago. (Photo: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish soldiers are seen near the town of Hassa on the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province, Turkey, Jan. 21, 2018. (Photo: Caglar Ozturk/Dogan News Agency via Reuters)
Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army fighters pray at a training camp in Azaz, Syria, Jan. 21, 2018. (Photo: Osman Orsal/Reuters)
Plumes of smoke rise on the air from inside Syria, as seen from the outskirts of the border town of Kilis, Turkey on Jan. 20, 2018. (Photo: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)