Turkish military forces and their Free Syrian Army (FSA) proxies continued their offensive in northwest Syria on Sunday and captured the city of Afrin.
Operation Olive Branch has been steadily moving forward and the Kurdish fighters who had taken the city from the Islamic State were themselves removed by the Turks who consider the Kurds terrorists. The Kurds, seeing the writing on the wall, abandoned the city to regroup and fight on elsewhere.
Turkey’s military said in a tweet on Sunday that troops were searching for landmines and other explosive devices in the area.
“Many of the terrorists had turned tail and run away already,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech in western Turkey.
He announced that Turkey-backed forces took complete control of the city centre at 8:30am local time (05:00 GMT). He said 3,603 “terrorists had been neutralised” in Afrin since the launch of the cross-border operation on January 20.
Erdogan said the Turkish flag and the flag of the Syrian opposition fighters were raised in the city, previously controlled by the Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG.
Later on Sunday, limited fighting was reported in some pockets in Afrin.
“Our special forces and members of the Free Syrian Army are cleaning the remains and the traps they left behind,” Erdogan said. “In the centre of Afrin, symbols of trust and stability are waving instead of rags of terrorists.”
Footage by Turkey’s private Dogan news agency showed Syrian fighters shooting in the air in celebration. In another Dogan video, a Syrian fighter is seen shooting at a statue of Kurdish hero Kawa, a symbol of resistance against oppressors, before a bulldozer pulled it down.
Over 150,000 civilians have fled the city, and despite the Turks calls for them to return now as it is safe, most will probably stay away for the time being. The Kurds have vowed to continue fighting with guerrilla tactics.
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