Turkish military and FSA ‘advances in Afrin, claiming third town center’
The Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have advanced on the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants in Syria’s Afrin district, claiming several strategic points, including a town center and at least five villages.
“Shaykh al-Hadid, located in the west of Afrin, is the third town center to be liberated since the launch of the operation. Bulbul and Rajo town centers have also been liberated… Four more villages and a mountain were liberated. They include: Bafliun village and its mountain in the Sharan district, Hulilu village in Rajo, Souuldjouk and Araendi villages in Shaykh al-Hadid district,” state-run Anadolu Agency reported on March 4.
“The village of Haji Khalil in Rajo, located northwest of Afrin, has been cleared of terrorists,” it added. Ankara sees the YPG as a terrorist group for its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, which is listed as a terror organization by Turkey, the U.S, and the European Union.
‘134 strategic points captured so far'
Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20 along with elements of the FSA to remove YPG militants from Afrin.
According to state-run Anadolu Agency, the number of strategic points, including 102 villages and 22 mountains and hills, Turkish military and the FSA captured has risen to 134.
Some 2,612 YPG militants have been “neutralized” in Turkey’s ongoing cross-border operation, the Turkish military stated on March 4.
The authorities use the word “neutralized” in statements to imply that the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli stated on March 2 that 41 Turkish soldiers and 116 Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants have been killed since the start of “Operation Olive Branch.”
Turkish PM: Afrin is surrounded
Many of the areas over Turkey’s southeastern border, including the town of Rajo in northern Syria, have been cleared of “terrorists,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on March 3, referring to YPG militants.
“Afrin is surrounded. We have cleared all nearby border areas of terror nests,” Yıldırım said during the ruling Justice and Development’s (AKP) congress in the Central Anatolian province of Konya.
Yıldırım said Turkish soldiers, Special Forces, gendarmeries, police officers and FSA elements are advancing “step by step” in Afrin.
“Our Turkish soldiers are making history in Afrin. They have also cleared Rajo of terrorists,” he added.