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Turkish army takes 'total control' of Afrin

Syrians queue to receive aid in Afrin on March 22 [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 March, 2018

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Saturday's announcement follows a week after Turkey seized control of Afrin's main town, which carries the same name.
The Turkish army and allied Syrian rebels have taken "total control" of the Kurdish Afrin region in northern Syria, according to agencies. 

The Turkish military is now carrying out a minesweeping operation to allow Afrin's residents to return. Thousands reportedly fled the area as Ankara waged war with the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) that had previously controlled the region.

On Saturday, the Turkish government organised a press tour that passed through the northwestern Syrian town of Jinderes en route to central Afrin, the region's main town that also carries the same name.  

Turkey and its Syrian allies captured Jinderes earlier in March following heavy armed clashes. The Associated Press, which was part of Saturday's press tour, reported that Jinderes was destroyed and largely empty.

Ankara launched Operation Olive Branch on January 20 with the goal of ousting the YPG from Afrin. Turkey considers the YPG as the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which it has fought an armed conflict with for more than three decades. Both the US and European Union consider the PKK a terror group. 

Since the Turkish air and ground offensive began in January, more than 200,000 people have been displaced from their homes. The campaign has also caused tensions with Washington, which has been working with the YPG as part of a separate conflict with the Islamic State.

According to reports, the YPG withdrew from Afrin town after briefly resisting the Turkish offensive that concluded on Sunday. "They had left mines but thank God we took (the town) and we will step on their heads God willing," said Ismail Montaser Billah, a Syrian fighter. 

Civilians AP spoke to said the YPG mistreated residents who did not cooperate with them. "We are suffering because of a lack of food and water," said Abdul-Rahman Mohammed, a civilian.

The Turkish Red Crescent has distributed food and aid since seizing both the town and region. The relief organisation's president, Kerem Kinik, said 100,000 civilians are still in and around Afrin. 

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