Syrian Free Army, backed by Turkey, claim victory over Kurdish YPG

Casey Dawson
March 19, 2018

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey announced the takeover of the city in a speech at a commemoration ceremony in Gallipoli on Sunday, hailing the Turkish and Syrian soldiers who had accomplished the takeover as heroes. "Our special forces and members of the Free Syrian Army are cleaning the remains and the traps they left behind", Erdo─čan said.

"As of 0830 this morning, the Free Syrian Army, with the support of the Turkish Armed Forces, have gained total control over Afrin town center", Erdogan said on Twitter.

It says the offensive in Afrin aimed to secure Turkey's southern border, and has threatened to extend the campaign to other Kurdish-controlled regions of northern Syria.

They called on the United Nations, European powers, Muslim countries and members of the USA -led military coalition against Islamic State to "take steps to immediately avert the tragedy in Afrin and get concrete results, including withdrawal of all armed forces who entered Afrin".

The fight for Afrin, a once stable pocket of northwest Syria, has opened a new front in Syria's multi-sided civil war and highlighted the ever greater role of foreign powers in the seven-year-old conflict.

For the past two months, Turkey and its own favored Syrian rebels clashed with Kurdish rebels in the Syrian-Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

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At least 46 Turkish soldiers were killed since Operation Olive Branch began on 20 January.

The FSA force surrounded Afrin from three sides with more than 200,000 civilians fleeing the city. Ankara said the demand did not apply to Afrin, but its operation has faced criticism in the West. Kurdish YPG officials were not giving up, however, vowing guerilla resistance to the Turkish occupation.

Turkey's armed forces said in a statement that troops were combing the streets for mines and improvised explosive devices.

Yesterday, the Turkish flag was flying in Afrin after the Turkish troops and their Syrian allies drove the Kurdish militia out.

If that happens, Turkey would control a large chunk of northern Syria from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean coast, in effect blocking the formation of a Kurdish statelet in the area, Erdurmaz said.

The Turkish military denied the allegations.

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