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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

Turkish military says 'neutralized' 4,157 Kurdish forces in Afrin operation

Iran Press TV

Sat Apr 14, 2018 02:33PM

The Turkish military says it has so far "neutralized" a total of 4,157 Kurdish forces since the start of Ankara's months-long operation against Syria's border region of Afrin.

Turkey uses the term "neutralize" to signify that militants were killed, injured or captured.

In a weekly statement on Saturday, the Turkish General Staff said 107 mines and 781 improvised explosives had been also destroyed in the course of the operation in Afrin.

The statement noted that 52 Turkish soldiers had been killed and 232 others injured during the operation.

Turkey launched the so-called Operation Olive Branch in Afrin on January 20 to clear the northern Syrian border of the People's Protection Units (YPG), a US-backed Kurdish militant group which Ankara associates with the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The Turkish operation was launched without any permission from the Syrian government. Damascus views the operation as an act of aggression against its soil and has called for an immediate withdrawal of Turkish forces.

Nearly 300 Syrian civilians have been reportedly killed during the war on Afrin despite Turkey's claim that it has made sure the operation does not pose a threat to civilians' lives.

In late March, the Turkish military said it had established full control over Syria's Afrin. Ankara, however, says it will hand over Afrin to a central government in Syria only after a new administration is formed following an election in the war-torn country.

Meanwhile, the Turkish General Staff said in a Saturday statement that the military had also "neutralized" 67 militants during operations in the eastern Turkish provinces of Tunceli, Diyarbakir and Sirnak, and in northern Iraq between April 7 and April 13, noting that 27 of the militants were "neutralized" inside Turkey while 40 others were "neutralized" abroad.

During the operations inside Turkey and in northern Iraq, which also killed two Turkish soldiers and injured 10 others, 44 weaponry items, including infantry rifles, snipers and machine guns, were confiscated and 84 improvised explosives, 47 weapon emplacements, shelters, caves and depots were destroyed, the statement added.

Turkey's offensive against Afrin came after the US said it sought to create a 30,000-strong force near the Turkish border in Syria with the help of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militant group, which is mainly comprised of YPG forces.

Later, Ankara threatened to move as far as Manbij, where American forces are also present. The US arms and training support for the YPG has long been a bone of contention between the two sides.

US officials regard the YPG as the most effective fighting force against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in northern Syria, and have substantially increased weaponry and technology support to the group.

Earlier in March, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara and Baghdad planned to carry out a joint military operation against PKK members in the northern parts of Iraq.

Turkey regularly conducts airstrikes against the PKK in the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq, but it extended the operations to Sinjar in late March.

Turkey's operations in Iraq's Sinjar region came despite Iraq's announcement that no foreign forces had crossed the border into the country. A few days later, Iraq also started deploying forces in Sinjar.

Turkey has banned the PKK as a terrorist organization. The militant group has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984. The three-decade conflict has left more than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, dead.

The PKK gained a foothold in Sinjar in 2014 after coming to the aid of the Izadi minority community, who were targeted by Daesh.

A shaky ceasefire between Ankara and the PKK that had stood since 2013 was declared null and void by the militants in 2015 in the wake of a large-scale Turkish military campaign against the group.

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