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US sanctions Turkey-backed Syrian militias over rights abuses in Afrin

Washington has accused the Suleiman Shah Brigade, the Hamza Division and their leadership of committing serious rights abuses in the Kurdish-majority enclave of Afrin.

WASHINGTON — The US Treasury Department imposed sanctions Thursday on two Turkey-backed Syrian militias accused of forcibly displacing and oppressing the local Kurdish population in northern Syria's Afrin region. 

Treasury said the Suleiman Shah Brigade and Hamza Division "exacerbated the suffering caused by years of civil war in northern Syria and hindered the region’s recovery by engaging in serious human rights abuses against vulnerable populations."

Both groups have fought under the banner of the Turkey-backed Syrian National Army (SNA), a coalition of hard-line Islamist and moderate rebel factions formerly known as the Free Syrian Army. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria as well as the State Department’s annual human rights reports have documented a slew of rights violations committed by the SNA against Kurdish, Yazidi and other civilians.  

In a statement Thursday, Treasury accused the Suleiman Shah Brigade of targeting Afrin’s Kurdish population with harassment, abduction and other abuses to force them to vacate their homes or pay large ransoms for the return of their property and family members, as reported in-depth by Al-Monitor.

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