By Nurhan Corlu and Berin Alpaslan Gokce
Turkey on Monday rejected claims that the terrorist YPG/PKK had “withdrawn” from the town of Afrin, northwestern Syria before Turkish-backed forces liberated the city center on Sunday.
"The terrorists fled," said Bekir Bozdag, deputy prime minister and government spokesman, adding that the terrorist group didn't leave Afrin to Turkey.
"There are stories on some social media accounts belonging to the terrorist group saying they withdrew,” Bozdag told reporters.
“They didn't withdraw, they were scared and fled. They understood that they couldn't withstand the Turkish Armed Forces anymore and they had to flee."
As evidence, he cited the seizure of weapons and ammunition the terrorist group left behind in the town.
"If the terrorists had left in a planned strategic way, they would have taken their weapons and ammo," he explained.
Bozdag also spoke on how a booby-trapped bomb terrorists planted in the town killed 11 people late Sunday, including both civilians and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters.
"As you know, civilians and FSA fighters were killed in the explosion on Monday. We know that the terrorists had planted mines and set up traps in the region before fleeing," he said, adding that these traps have to be removed or defused.
The bomb exploded in a four-story building during a sweep of a neighborhood in newly liberated Afrin.
The blast killed at least seven civilians and four Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, according to a security source.
Bozdag added that during Operation Olive Branch, schools, hospitals, and other places frequented by civilians were not harmed.
He also said that the operation’s most important objective is ending the project to build a terror corridor and terrorist state in the region, and with its success Operation Olive Branch has eliminated this project.
Turkey on Jan. 20 launched Operation Olive Branch to remove YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
According to the Turkish General Staff, Operation Olive Branch has aimed 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 YPG/PKK since July 2012, when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without a fight.