Turkey says its forces have seized the Syrian town of Afrin from the Kurdish YPG militia

Ankara launched Operation Olive Branch against the town on Jan. 20, slowly squeezing the YPG and hundreds of thousands of civilians into the town centre

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkish flag and the flag of the Syrian opposition fighters have been raised in the town, previously controlled by the Kurdish militia known as the People’s Defence Units, or YPG.

“Many of the terrorists had turned tail and run away already,” Erdogan said in a speech in western Turkey.

Turkey views the Kurdish forces in the Afrin enclave along the border as terrorists linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged a decades-long insurgency within Turkey’s borders

Ankara launched the operation, codenamed Olive Branch, against the town and surrounding areas on Jan. 20, slowly squeezing the militia and hundreds of thousands of civilians into the town centre. Forty-six Turkish soldiers have been killed since then      .

A Kurdish official, Hadia Yousef, said the YPG was still fighting inside the town, but had evacuated the remaining civilians because of “massacres.” But Salih Muslim, a senior Kurdish official living in exile in Europe, tweeted that Kurdish fighters had withdrawn, saying “the struggle will continue and the Kurdish people will keep defending themselves.”

Our job is not done yet, we have a lot more work. But terror and terrorists in Afrin are over

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Turkey’s military meanwhile tweeted that its forces are now conducting combing operations to search for land mines and explosives. Government spokesman Bekir Bozdag tweeted that Turkey would take steps to restore daily life and ensure access to food and health care. “Our job is not done yet, we have a lot more work. But terror and terrorists in Afrin are over,” he said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nearly 200,000 people have fled the Afrin region in recent days amid heavy airstrikes, entering Syrian government-held territory nearby. Syrian State TV on Sunday broadcast footage of a long line of vehicles and civilians on foot leaving Afrin. Erdogan has said the people of Afrin will return.

http://edmontonjournal.com/news/world/report-turkey-backed-forces-push-into-syrian-town-of-afrin/wcm/50845bf0-a43e-442a-b349-078320ebb4ad