News ID: 211869
Published: 0126 GMT March 18, 2018

Turkish-led forces oust Kurds from Syria's Afrin

Turkish-led forces oust Kurds from Syria's Afrin

Turkey's flag was flying in Syria's Afrin on Sunday after Turkish troops and Ankara-backed militants chased out Kurdish militia forces to seize control of the northern city.

In a major gain for Ankara's two-month operation against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, Turkish-led forces pushed into Afrin apparently unopposed, taking up positions across the city, AFP reported.

The advance came as Syria's war entered its eighth year this week. In Afrin, Turkish forces and their Syrian militant allies took all neighborhoods of the city after they made a lightning advance inside on Sunday.

Civilians were seen fleeing the city and plumes of smoke rose into the sky as mines exploded.

Around 250,000 civilians had left in recent days after pro-Ankara militants all but surrounded the city, fleeing southward to territory still held by the YPG or controlled by the Syrian regime.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey-backed militants had taken control of the city center at 8:30 a.m. (0530 GMT).

The Turkish leader has said the operation could move on to other Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria.

"Our work is not finished.... but terrorism is finished in Afrin," Turkish government spokesman Bekir Bozdag said on Twitter.

"Their project of creating a terrorism corridor and a terrorist state has been thwarted."

Residents said it appeared that YPG units had withdrawn from the city without a fight.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor relying on sources on the ground, says more than 280 civilians have been killed since the campaign began on January 20 – including 16 at a hospital on Friday.

The observatory said Sunday that more than 1,500 Kurdish fighters had been killed since the start of the offensive on January 20, most of them in airstrikes and artillery fire. More than 400 pro-Ankara militants have also been killed, it said. The Turkish military says 46 Turkish soldiers have died.

Turkey sees the YPG as a "terrorist" offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.




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