Middle East

Car bomb kills Kurdish politician in northern Syria

Kurdish opposition fighters attend a ceremony on 18 July 2013, in the northern Syrian border village of Qamishli
Image caption Kurdish Popular Protection Units were set up to repel opposing forces in the north

A prominent Syrian Kurdish politician has been killed in a car bomb attack in Syria's north-eastern town of Qamishli, near the Turkish border, officials say.

Isa Huso was a member of the Supreme Kurdish Council, aimed at bringing together Syrian Kurdish groups, and an opponent of President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria's main Kurdish militia later issued a call to arms to all Kurds to fight jihadists operating in the north.

It follows weeks of intense fighting between Kurds and jihadist groups.

Mr Huso was leaving his home in the border town when a bomb planted inside his car detonated, Kurdish political sources told Reuters news agency.

He was a member of the foreign relations committee in the Kurdish council, an umbrella group for regional Kurdish factions.

Isa Huso, 60, was described by Kurdish activists as a moderate.

He had reportedly been imprisoned several times under Mr Assad's rule for campaigning against human rights abuses.

'Targeting Kurds as Kurds'

"Huso sought to promote Kurdish rights within a united Syria free from the grip of the Assad regime," his former neighbour, Massoud Akko, told Reuters news agency.

"No-one knows who killed him but the fingers point to the militant Islamists. They are the only ones who are targeting Kurds as Kurds," he added.

Responding to Huso's killing, Kurdish fighters known as the Popular Protection Units (YPG) issued a call to arms.

"(The YPG) called on all those fit to carry weapons to join their ranks, to protect areas under their control from attacks by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) fighters, Al-Nusra Front and other battalions," a London-based Syria watchdog, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.

Image caption The majority of Syria's Kurds reside in the north

The YPG, which claims to have no political affiliations, was set up to counter offensives in majority Kurdish areas.

In recent months it has been battling to drive out rebels from the north, including the al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front.

Areas near the Turkish border have seen some of the most intense fighting, with clashes reported between the Kurdish Democratic Union Party and the Al-Nusra Front in the town of Ras al-Ain.

Syria's ethnic Kurdish minority has faced decades of discrimination and marginalisation under Assad rule, with Syrian Kurds staging their own anti-government protests after the Syria conflict began in March 2011.

Responding to a wave of protests in 2011, the Assad administration decreed a number of concessions, granting Kurds in the eastern Hasaka region Syrian nationality.

In mid-2012, Assad's forces withdrew from majority Kurdish areas, leaving Kurdish militia in charge of security there.

The Kurds make up a little over 10% of the population and are largely concentrated in north-eastern Syria, towards the Turkish border.