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June 27, 2017

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Syrian Kurds impose military service to ward off extremists

BEIRUT, Lebanon--Syria's Kurds imposed compulsory military service for their men to ward off a push by Islamic extremists in the predominantly Kurdish areas in northern Syria, Kurdish officials said Thursday.

The move reflects fears among Syrian Kurds that the ongoing offensive by the Islamic State group in their region may potentially reverse gains made by their ethnic minority in the past three years.

The Kurds — a long ostracized community in Syria — have made unprecedented gains amid the three-year-old civil war, carving out a semi-autonomous territory in the north as overstretched government troops abandoned the region to focus on defending Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad's seat of power.

In November, the Syrian Kurds declared their own civil administration in areas under their control, dividing it into the regions of Afrin, Kobani and Jazeera.

Juan Mohammed, a spokesman for the Kurdish city of Qamishli, said Jazeera — the largest of the three Syrian Kurdish territories in size and population — adopted the draft law this week.

It requires all adult males serve in "self-defense" duty for six months. The law was approved Sunday by the legislative council that acts as Jazeera's local parliament. Isso and Kurdish activist Mustafa Osso said the law went into effect this week.

Isso told The Associated Press that according to the draft law, every family was required to have one of its male members between the ages of 18 and 30 do the service. After six months,

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