TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Turkish forces swept into the northwestern Syrian town of Afrin on Sunday, raising their flags in the town center and declaring full control after an eight-week aggression to drive out Kurdish YPG forces.
A spokesman for the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), a major ally of Ankara in the incursion, said they entered Afrin before dawn, meeting no resistance, Reuters reported.
A war monitor, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said pockets of YPG fighters were defying orders to withdraw, but Turkish forces were in control.
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.
Ankara says Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters are an extension of a militant group waging an insurgency inside Turkey, and has vowed to crush what it described as a “terror corridor” of YPG-controlled territory along Turkey’s southern border with Syria.
It launched its campaign eight weeks ago and threatened to extend the offensive to another Kurdish-controlled region further east where US forces are stationed alongside the YPG.
“Afrin city center is under control as of 8:30 this morning,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told a rally commemorating the World War One Gallipoli campaign, adding that Turkish and FSA flags had been raised in the town center.
“Most of the terrorists have already fled with tails between their legs. Our special forces and members of the Free Syrian Army are cleaning the remains and the traps they left behind,” Erdogan said. “In the center of Afrin, symbols of trust and stability are waving instead of rags of terrorists.”
More than 150,000 people have fled Afrin in recent days, the Syrian Observatory said, as Turkey pressed on with its campaign despite a UN Security Council call for a 30-day ceasefire across Syria.
Ankara said the demand did not apply to Afrin, but its operation has faced criticism in the West.