Foreign fighters in Syria turn their weapons on Turkey

UK national Huang Lei said he left his life as an international politics student to fight in the Syrian conflict.

(CNN)A British national who traveled to Syria to fight against ISIS says he and two dozen other foreign fighters are now battling Turkish forces over territory in the country.

One of the foreign fighters, 24-year-old British national Huang Lei, told CNN that about 25 people from the West were currently in northern Syria's Afrin region helping the People's Protection Units (YPG) hold on to land, as Ankara tries to seize it from the Kurdish group's hands.
Another six foreign fighters, including one with an American-sounding accent, were seen in a YPG video posted on social media, preparing to travel to Afrin to fight.
    An official from the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance in which the YPG fights, said that US, British and German citizens were among the "tens" of fighters in Afrin, Reuters reported.
    CNN exchanged messages with Lei via his Weibo social media account on Wednesday. CNN could not independently verify his claims.
    Lei, from the northern English city of Manchester, claimed he was fighting ISIS in another part of Syria just days ago, he told CNN from Afrin.
    "I came here to defend the people of Rojava from terrorism," he said, referring to an expansive northern Syrian region.
    "It makes no difference if the aggressors are (ISIS) or the Turkish military. In Afrin, Turkey knowingly targets civilian buildings such as hospitals."
    With ISIS on the brink of eradication in Syria, foreign fighters are left with the choice or returning home or continuing to support the militia groups they joined.
    Before joining the YPG, Lei said he was a student of international politics at a university in Manchester. He left the UK in 2015 and said that, eventually, he wanted to go back to his home country. 
    "This is why I came here. Keep the evil away from my home country and fight against the terrorists, " he said.
    It was not clear whether Lei had stayed in Syria for the entire period since 2015.
    The Syrian civil war that has raged for nearly seven years has attracted thousands of foreign fighters, some who joined jihadist groups, and others who teamed up with the militia fighting against them.
    But the new focus on Turkish forces marks a major shift in the role of foreign fighters in the conflict.
    Ankara, which has long fought Kurdish unrest in southeastern Turkey, is determined to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish state at Turkey's border with Syria. It has used military force for decades in the country's southeast, and has also carried out strikes over the Syrian border.

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