Turkish-led forces capture town of Afrin, dealing blow to Kurds

Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies swept into the northwestern Syrian town of Afrin on Sunday (March 18), taking control of the town centre after Kurdish YPG forces pulled out, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said. Meanwhile, Syrian forces have taken more than 80 percent of Eastern Ghouta, and a spokesperson from a main rebel faction told The Daily Star they were in "serious" negotiations with the United Nations about a cease-fire agreement.

The fight for Afrin, a once stable pocket of northwest Syria, has opened a new front in Syria's multi-sided civil war and highlighted the ever greater role of foreign powers in the seven-year-old conflict.

They called on the United Nations, European powers, Muslim countries and members of the USA -led military coalition against Islamic State to "take steps to immediately avert the tragedy in Afrin and get concrete results, including withdrawal of all armed forces who entered Afrin".

As of Sunday afternoon, the whole of the Afrin enclave was in the hands of Turkey-led forces, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor that relies on sources on the ground for its information. In the center of Afrin, the symbols of peace and security are flying, not the rags of a terror organization.

Armed groups loyal to Assad last month moved to join the Kurdish defense of Afrin but stayed outside the town after Turkish forces fired artillery in a warning not to advance further, state-run Turkish media reported.

"In all of Afrin's sectors, our forces will become a permanent nightmare" for pro-Ankara forces, the statement said.

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Yesterday, the Turkish flag was flying in Afrin after the Turkish troops and their Syrian allies drove the Kurdish militia out. "Maybe it will be cleared by the end of the day - it's empty of (YPG) fighters, they cleared out".

"We have more to do".

He added, "We will have to take necessary steps to rebuild Afrin, raise infrastructure and wipe out traces of terrorists".

The FSA force surrounded Afrin from three sides with more than 200,000 civilians fleeing the city.

The Syrian government has already condemned the Turkish offensive against Afrin, rejecting Ankara's claim about having informed Damascus of the operation.

A spokesman for the FSA also said they entered Afrin before dawn, meeting no resistance.

  • Adam Floyd