Turkish forces and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) opposition group today captured the city centre of Afrin in Syria, which was previously controlled by Kurdish fighters, Turkish military forces and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, reported Al Jazeera.
“The Turkish armed forces and Free Syrian Army have taken the control of Afrin’s city centre,” the Turkish military said in a tweet on Sunday, adding that experts were searching for landmines and other sorts of explosive traps in the area.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also announced that Turkey-backed forces took complete control of the city centre at 8:30am local time (05:00 GMT).
The armed forces shared a video in a separate tweet allegedly showing the Turkish flag hoisted in the city centre of Afrin. Other videos and photos shared by the Turkish-backed FSA fighters on social media showed them in residential streets, making victory signs and waving flags.
Turkey – together with the FSA – in January launched a military operation into Afrin in the northwest of Syria to vanquish the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection (YPG) fighters near its border. Turkey considers the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and its armed wing YPG to be “terrorist groups” with ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The PKK has waged a decades-long armed fight against the Turkish state that has killed tens of thousands of people. The PYD/YPG has come to control large swaths of northern Syria, including Afrin, in the course of the Syrian war, particularly through fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in an US-backed umbrella organisation named Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The US support for SDF has infuriated Turkey and created the ongoing diplomatic crisis between the two NATO allies.