By Kubra Chohan
Turkey’s president said the siege ring of northwestern Syrian city of Afrin will be completed "tonight."
The route terrorists use to enter and exit eastern Afrin will be closed soon, Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a gathering of village and neighborhood 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.
Nearly 3,500 terrorists 'neutralized' in operation
“Today, as the operation entered its 54th day, almost 3,500 terrorists have been neutralized and about 1,300 square kilometers of land cleared of terrorists,” he said.
Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralized" in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
Later on Wednesday, speaking at a Doctor’s Day event at Bestepe Culture and Congress center of Presidential Complex, Erdogan put the exact number of terrorists "neutralized" in the operation at 3,486.
He also reiterated that Turkey was not in Afrin to invade but to clear the region of terrorists.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists 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-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military also said only terror targets are being destroyed and that "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming civilians.
Since the launch of the operation, the Turkish military and Free Syrian Army fighters have liberated 233 locations, including five town centers, 194 villages, 39 strategic mountains and hills, and one YPG/PKK base.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.