Erdogan says civilians are being led out of Afrin through a special corridor as the Turkish military and Free Syrian Army encircle the centre of the town.

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during the 46th Mukhtars Meeting at Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on March 14, 2018
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during the 46th Mukhtars Meeting at Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on March 14, 2018 (AA)

Turkey’s president said the Turkish military and Free Syrian Army will completely encircle Syria's northwestern town of Afrin by 'tonight.'

The route terrorists use to enter and exit eastern Afrin will be closed soon, Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a gathering of village and neighbourhood heads at the presidential complex in the capital Ankara on Wednesday.

Erdogan reiterated that in the Turkish-led counter-terrorist operation, the utmost care is being taken to avoid harming civilians, and that if they had not taken this care, the operation would have been over by now.

“All kinds of care are being taken. Look, right now, first civilians are being taken out of Afrin in vehicles through a special corridor,” Erdogan said.

“We will clear Afrin of terrorists, clear Manbij, and east of the Euphrates River to our border with northern Iraq, we will rid the terrorists from all of them the same way.”

Erdogan also said that the terrorists lack the ability to construct the tunnels in the mountains that they use.

“They have partners, too. They did this all together as coalition powers. The terrorists aren’t that smart, don’t be fooled,” he added.

“Today, as the operation entered its 54th day, almost 3,500 terrorists have been neutralised and about 1,300 square kilometres of land cleared of terrorists,” Erdogan said.

Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralised" in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.

On January 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear the YPG and Daesh from the region of Afrin, near Turkey’s southern border. 

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defence rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.

Twelve more villages cleared

The Turkish Armed Forces and Free Syrian Army (FSA) on Wednesday cleared twelve more villages and a hill from terrorists during Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region.

According to Anadolu Agency correspondents in the field, the villages of Goz, Kafr Dali al Fawqani, Ma’arratah and Shadir in Afrin, the Julakan and Kuran villages Jinderes, Kuri Kul in Bulbul district, a hill and the village of Satyan in Mabatli district were cleared of the YPG.

Since the launch of the operation, the Turkish military and FSA have cleared 229 locations, including five town centres, 190 villages, 39 strategic mountains and hills, and one YPG base.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies