Turkey’s military and all Free Syrian Army (FSA) have encircled the northwestern Syrian town of Afrin, the Turkish armed forces said on March 13, in a move that marks a substantial advance in Turkey’s fight against People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants across its southern Syrian border.
In a statement, the military also said it had captured “areas of critical importance” in the region. On March 12, the Turkish government spokesperson Bekir Bozdağ said the armed forces had gained control of more than half the area.
Meanwhile, two Turkish soldiers have been killed in separate incidents, both of which involve Kurdish militant groups, Turkish officials said on March 12.
One Turkish soldier was killed while another was injured in Syria’s northwestern Afrin district as the Turkish-led “Operation Olive Branch” continues, the military said on March 12.
A Turkish General Staff statement said the casualties occurred during sweep and clear operations in Afrin’s Jinderes region.
The statement added that the injured soldier is being treated at hospital, without giving further details.
In a separate incident, another soldier was martyred during clashes with Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) militants in Turkey’s eastern Ağrı province. The army said three PKK militants were neutralized.
Two children were also reportedly injured in an attack when an improvised roadside explosive went off, Ağrı’s Governor’s Office said in a written statement.
More than 3,300 YPG militants ‘neutralized’
Meanwhile, a total of 3,393 militants have been “neutralized” in Syria’s northwestern Afrin district since the start of “Operation Olive Branch,” Turkish Armed Forces said on March 12.
Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20 to clear Afrin of the YPG, which Ankara regards as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a threat to Turkey’s security.