By Halil Fidan and Behcet Alkan
Civilians in northwestern Syria's Afrin said Sunday that YPG/PKK terrorists had fled the town center several days before Turkey-backed troops took its control.
Turkish Armed Forces and Free Syrian Army took control of the Afrin town center early Sunday as part of Operation Olive Branch, which was launched on Jan. 20 to clear the area of YPG/PKK-Daesh terrorists.
Zeynel Abidin Kazan, 44, told Anadolu Agency they had been praying for Turkish soldiers to rescue them.
Kazan said civilians in the district have suffered under
“Just three to four days ago, we saw terrorists loading their weapons on their vehicles.
“We think that they went to Jazira or Manbij. Their number has already decreased in recent days. We owe Turkey a lot, thank you,” he added.
Ali Imceddemi, a 60-year-old baker, said the YPG/PKK did not allow civilians to leave the town for days, using them as human shields.
Imceddemi said that they had gained their freedom despite all the difficulties.
“We saw terrorists leave the town four days ago. We think that they went to Manbij,” he said.
“God bless Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“We hope normalcy returns to our town, and our neighbors who are in other regions come back as soon as possible,” he added.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey's borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from terrorist cruelty and oppression.
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 has also said that only terrorist targets are being destroyed and "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming any civilians.
Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012, when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without a fight.