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Turkey airstrikes kill dozens in Afrin

March 4, 2018

At least 36 pro-government fighters have been killed in Ankara's latest offensive maneuvers in northern Syria. Turkish forces have "surrounded" the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin, according to the country's premier.

A member of the Free Syrian Army patrols in Raju village
Image: picture alliance/abaca/Beha El Halebi

Turkish warplanes have struck pro-government forces in the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin in northern Syria, killing 36 loyalist fighters backing the People's Protection Units (YPG) in the area.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led alliance of Syrian militias battling the "Islamic State" militant group, said Turkey's airstrikes targeted positions held by the Syrian military's "popular forces."

Last month, militias supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad entered Afrin to back Kurdish fighters after Turkey launched an offensive with the support of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a loose opposition force comprising several Islamist groups.

Turkey claims the YPG, which forms an integral part of the SDF, is an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a terrorist-designated group that has carried out a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Read more: With Turkey's offensive in Afrin, Erdogan is seeking to kill two birds with one stone

Map showing areas held by armed forces operating in northern Syria


On Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said his country's forces had captured a strategic village in Afrin, effectively increasing its hold on the area.

"Afrin has been surrounded. We have cleared all areas near our borders of terror nests," Yildirim said. The premier added that Ankara would never give up its campaign against "terror."

Since it launched its offensive in January, Turkey has managed to gain control of more than 20 percent of the area, according to the latest assessment from the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on an on-the-ground network of sources.

Read more: Turkey's military offensive against Kurdish-held Afrin — What you need to know

Protests against bloodshed

The Observatory added that more than 140 civilians have been killed by Turkish forces and allies since Ankara launched the offensive.

Read more: Free Syrian Army turns to Turkey for support in war against Assad

On Saturday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Berlin to rally against Turkey's offensive in Afrin. Police said that while the event was mostly peaceful, they had to confiscate flags and placards depicting jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

ls/cmk (AFP, dpa, AP)

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