Syrian Rebels, Backed by Turkey, Seize Control of Afrin

19 March, 2018, 00:12 | Author: Edward Snyder
  • The Latest Syrian Kurds deny Turkey has taken Afrin

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have taken "total" control of the centre of Afrin, a Kurdish-majority city in northern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.

After 57 days of military operations, the Turkish armed forces, in co-operation with "Free Syrian Army" forces, managed to invade the center of the city of Afrin, which until a few hours ago was controlled by the Kurdish YPG militia forces.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the Turkey-backed forces have taken control of half the town, with heavy fighting still underway.

Afrin is one of the cantons in the self-proclaimed Kurdish autonomous administration in northern Syria and Ankara is anxious by the consolidation along its border of a de facto statelet ruled by a group it considers a terrorist organisation.

Clashes in Afrin were still under way, she said.

Abdo said that the terrorists did not hesitate to attack and kill civilians.

It added that while nearly 200,000 people had fled the area in recent days amid heavy airstrikes, thousands of civilians remained.

The president said "most of the terrorists have already fled with tails between their legs", and that his country's "special forces and members of the Free Syrian Army are cleaning the remains and the traps they left behind". Ankara considers both groups to be offshoots of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey for decades.

"Afrin town center has come under the control of the Turkish Armed Forces and Free Syrian Army", the Turkish General Staff said on its official Twitter account.

"Maybe it will be cleared by the end of the day - it's empty of [YPG] fighters, they cleared out", he said.

Celebratory gunfire by FSA fighters in Afrin city.

"Our forces all over Afrin will become a constant nightmare for them", Othman Sheikh Issa, co-chair of the Afrin executive council, said in a televised statement.

On January 20, Turkey launches operation "Olive Branch" into Syria, aiming to oust the YPG militia from its enclave of Afrin.

Photos show soldiers in Afrin toppling a statue of Kawa, a Kurdish and Persian mythical hero and symbol of Kurdish new year celebrations that are being held this week. "Our job is not done yet, we have a lot more work". Most died in airstrikes and artillery fire, the group said, adding that more than 400 pro-Ankara rebels had been killed since 20 January.

Turkey also fears the establishment of a Kurdish self-ruled zone in Syria that could inspire its own Kurdish minority to press for greater autonomy.



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