Turkish-led forces have captured the northern Syrian town of Afrin from Kurdish fighters, Turkey's president said Sunday, in a potential turning point for his two-month-old campaign to expel USA -backed Kurdish forces from the border area.
The operation has taken the "utmost care to protect civilians" because the army does not aim to make an "intervention, but achieve peace" and "eradicate terrorist groups", Erdoğan said, noting that Turkey would take all necessary steps to rebuild Afrin's infrastructure while clearing any signs of "terrorists" from the city. "In the center of Afrin, symbols of trust and stability are waving instead of rags of terrorists".
"In all of Afrin's sectors, our forces will become a permanent nightmare", the statement said.
But a war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said clashes continued in parts of Afrin, the main town of the Afrin region which has been under Kurdish control for years.
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Turkey has threatened to extend its offensive to another Kurdish-controlled region further east, where U.S. forces are stationed alongside the YPG, Washington's ally against Isis in Syria. But a growing number of witness accounts and social media posts indicated that the Free Syrian Army had entered. "Maybe it will be cleared by the end of the day - it's empty of [YPG] fighters, they cleared out", he said. "But the project of building a terrorism corridor and building a terrorist state is over", he said.
Almost 200,000 people have fled the Afrin region in recent days amid heavy air strikes, entering Syrian government-held territory nearby, the Syrian Observatory said.
The Syrian government has already condemned the Turkish offensive against Afrin, rejecting Ankara's claim about having informed Damascus of the operation.
France's foreign minister said Turkey's concerns for its border security did not justify "the deep incursion of Turkish troops in the Afrin zone", which could also weaken global action against remaining Islamic State fighters in Syria.
The Syrian Democratic Force, which joined the YPG in its fight against Turkish forces and the Free Syrian Army in Afrin, also vowed to press on.