Erdogan heralds defeat of 'terrorists' as Kurd forces flee Afrin

by Abel Hampton March 19, 2018, 0:46
Erdogan heralds defeat of 'terrorists' as Kurd forces flee Afrin

Turkish Armed Forces and Free Syrian Army took control of the Afrin town center early on Sunday as part of Operation Olive Branch, which was launched on January 20 to clear the area of YPG/PKK-Daesh terrorists.

The two-month Turkish-led operation aimed to rid the border region of a Kurdish militia that Turkey considers a terrorist group. "My thanks for them", Lutfiye Dunca, the wife of 43-years old Mithat Dunca - a Turkish soldier martyred in Turkey's ongoing operation in Afrin on Saturday.

Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

Turkey has threatened to extend its offensive to another Kurdish-controlled region further east, where U.S. forces are stationed alongside the YPG, Washington's ally against Isis in Syria.

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the town's capture and said: "Many of the terrorists had turned tail and run away already". "In Afrin's center, it is no longer the rags of the terror organization that are waving but rather the symbols of peace and security".

FSA forces were widely criticized after footage emerged that appeared to show the fighters abusing and executing civilians during the operation. The statue is of Kawa, a mythological figure revered by the Kurds who defeated a brutal ruler in Iran's Zagros mountains and lit fires to spread the news, ushering in spring. The statement said this was the "first blatant violation of Kurdish people's culture and history since the takeover of Afrin".

A Turkish armed forces Twitter page posted a video of troops displaying the nation's flag in Afrin's centre.

In Afrin, AFP correspondents saw Turkish forces and their Syrian allies in all neighbourhoods of the city after they made a lightning advance inside on Sunday.

"Maybe (Afrin) will be cleared by the end of the day - it's empty of fighters, they cleared out", Hamadeen told Reuters.

Television reports said gunshots and explosion could be heard in the area while Turkish warplanes continue to fly over the city. He said YPG fighters remain deployed in areas of Afrin.

Turkey says the Syrian Kurdish militants are linked with Kurdish guerrillas attacking Turkish troops at home and has portrayed its offensive as crucial to its national security.

After chasing Kurdish fighters from Afrin, the pro-Ankara fighters broke into shops, restaurants and houses and left with foodstuff, electronic equipment, blankets and other goods, the correspondents said.

The military has also said that only terrorist targets are being destroyed and "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming any civilians.

USA plans to help form a Kurdish border force set alarm bells ringing in Ankara, and prompted the launch of Operation Olive Branch.

"The Turkish flag is flying there; the flag of the Free Syrian Army is flying there", said Erdogan in front of a cheering and exalted crowd. Erdogan threatened to move to Manbij, a Kurdish-run town to the east where USA troops have also maintained a presence after it was cleared of Islamic State militants in 2016.

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