Syrian Kurds Deny Turkey's Claim Afrin Is Surrounded

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks at the Turkish booth at the International Tourism Trade Fair ITB in Berlin

Syrian Kurds Deny Turkey's Claim Afrin Is Surrounded

Turkey's military and its rebel allies have besieged the northern Syrian town of Afrin and were nearing its town centre, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday, in what would mark a major advance in Turkey's military operation.

Ankara said it might also extend its aggression further east to Manbij unless the PYD/PKK leaves the strategically located city.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on global law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defence rights under the UN charter and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said. "The next day we will ensure that the east of Euphrates will be cleared of terrorists up to the Iraqi border", he said. "Approximately 850 square kilometers are under our control during the Afrin operation, and our aim is to clear 2,000 square kilometers from terrorists", he added.

The Turkish leader also stated that 3,171 YPG militants had been "neutralized" since the beginning of the operation.

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The Kurdish YPG is contesting this claim, however, with YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud saying that the Turks are more like 10 to 15 km away from Afrin, and that they definitely do not have the city surrounded.

One of the neutralized terrorists was from the senior cadre of the PKK, it added.

The word "neutralised" is used to imply that the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.

Ankara says the YPG is the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency in southeast Turkey.

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Operation Olive Branch is Turkey's second major military intervention in Syria during the unprecedented foreign-backed militancy that broke out in 2011.

Euphrates Shield, which began in August in 2016 and ended in March 2017, eliminated terrorists along the Syrian border.

Ankara has launched military incursion on January 20 against Kurdish YPG fighters in Kurdish-led autonomous Afrin and declared that the military campaign will continue until all PKK related groups are cleared from Turkey's southern borders, all the way to Iraq.

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