Türkİye, Politics, Middle East

482 square miles of area 'cleared of' Daesh in N Syria

Turkey to continue its presence in Iraq's Bashiqa as long as there is need, says Deputy PM Kurtulmus

482 square miles of area 'cleared of' Daesh in N Syria


A total area of 1,250 square kilometers (482 square miles) has been cleared of Daesh terrorists in northern Syria as part of the Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkish deputy premier said Monday. 

"So far, an area of 1,250 square kilometers has been captured by Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army forces and cleared of the terrorist organization," Numan Kurtulmus told reporters during an ongoing Cabinet meeting in the capital, Ankara. 

Kurtulmus said Turkey's cross-border operation launched late August to drive Daesh out of the Manbij pocket – a 98-kilometer (60 mile) strip of land along the Turkish-Syrian border – continued as planned "towards the targeted point." 

"It looks like – following the recent capture of [Syrian town] Dabiq – there will be an important relief, especially along Turkey's southern borders, in the region near Kilis [province]," he said. 

Daesh has targeted Turkey’s border Kilis province with rocket shell attacks since January 2016, killing 21 people and injuring more than 80 others. 

Free Syrian Army members took control of Dabiq town from the terrorist organization Daesh on Sunday. 

Dabiq, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Aleppo and around 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of Syria’s border with Turkey, has a symbolic importance for Daesh, as the group believes it will be the site of an end-times battle with non-Muslims. Dabiq is also the name of one of Daesh’s online magazines. 

Kurtulmus reiterated that the presence of Turkish troops in Iraq's Camp Bashiqa would continue. 

"Whenever the situation improves, and it is no longer necessary for Turkey to train and equip [the Sunni tribal forces], and to protect our people [in the camp] from Daesh and other terrorist organizations, then Turkey may review the situation. But for now, Turkey will continue its presence in Bashiqa," he said. 

About an expected refugee influx due to the Mosul offensive that began early Monday, Kurtulmus said if the operation was properly carried out, there would be no wave of migration. 

"If the operation in Mosul is wrongly done...very different things can happen. That means an extra burden for the region's peace, in terms of dissolution of peace. It means migrant wave in future, for Turkey, too" he said. 

Iraqi forces began advancing Sunday midnight on Mosul, the last Daesh stronghold in northern Iraq. 

In televised statements, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said only Iraqi army and police forces would be in the city. 

The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) also said a simultaneous operation has started against Daesh with the participation Peshmerga forces. 

U.S.-led coalition jets also supported Peshmerga forces in the anti-Daesh campaign, it said. 

Last December, Turkey sent 150 troops and about two dozen combat tanks to Bashiqa, located 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) northeast of Mosul.

Ankara and Baghdad have been locked in a row about the presence of Turkish troops there. 

Ankara has insisted that nearly 3,000 Sunni tribal forces trained by Turkish forces at the Bashiqa base on the eastern outskirts of Mosul join the anti-Daesh offensive and remain in the city as a police force. Baghdad is still at odds with that proposal. 

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