Thousands mourn Syria Kurd civilians killed by pro-Turkish fighters

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Thousands of angry Kurds rallied in rebel-held northern Syria on Tuesday after pro-Turkish fighters killed four fellow Kurds who were celebrating their Nowruz new year festival, an AFP correspondent reported.

"They killed my children for no reason," Kuli Maho, 70, told AFP as she wept for her three sons and grandson.

Some people waved Kurdish flags as they gathered for the funeral procession in the border town of Jindayris and neighbouring villages in Aleppo province, an area that was badly affected by last month's devastating earthquake.

On Monday evening, fighters of the US-sanctioned Ahrar al-Sharqiya group opened fire on people who had lit a fire for Nowruz, killing four of them and wounding three, according to Britain-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Residents told AFP that fighters of the Sharqiya Army, a splinter group of Ahrar al-Sharqiya, had carried out the killings.

Both factions are part of a coalition of Ankara-backed rebel groups known as the Syrian National Army.

"They beat us, they have no conscience," added Maho, who said she and her family had been living in a tent since the February 6 quake.

Jindayris was seized by Turkey and its Syrian rebel proxies in a 2018 offensive that drove Kurdish-led fighters -- and much of the resident Kurdish civilian population -- from the nearby Afrin area.

"They treat us like fourth or fifth class citizens," said protester Abu Jan, 42, referring to pro-Ankara factions that control the area.

"We can't move freely, they control everything and oppress us," he said.

"Nowruz is a national holiday, let us celebrate."

Some mourners huddled around bonfires set up for a Nowruz celebration overshadowed by the bloodshed.

Also known as Persian New Year, the Nowruz festival marks the start of spring and is celebrated by peoples of different ethnicities and faiths across the Middle East and beyond.

The US Treasury sanctioned Ahrar al-Sharqiya in July 2021.

Fighters from the group had pulled a 35-year-old Syrian Kurdish politician, Hevrin Khalaf, from her car and shot her dead in a possible war crime, according to the United Nations human rights office.

Elham Ahmad, a senior official of the Kurdish administration that retains control of much of the northeast, accused "Turkey and terrorist factions" it backs of "crimes against humanity" in the Afrin area.

Afrin is one of a number of formerly Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria that Turkey cleared of Kurdish-led fighters in successive cross-border operations.