The administration of Syria’s Kurdish-populated northwestern Afrin region has indicated that members of the US-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants will shift from direct confrontation to guerrilla tactics in their battles against Turkish military forces and allied militants from the so-called Free Syrian Army.
“Our forces are present all over Afrin’s geography. These forces will strike the positions of the Turkish enemy and its mercenaries at every opportunity,” Othman Sheikh Issa, co-chair of the Afrin executive council, said in a televised statement on Sunday.
He added, “Our forces all over Afrin will become a constant nightmare for them.”
Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkish army troopers and their allies had wrested full control over Afrin town.
“Afrin town center was completely under control at 8.30 a.m. local time (0530 GMT),” Erdogan said during his address at the ceremony of 103rd anniversary of Gallipoli Campaign in the northwestern city of Çanakkale.
He added, “We will have to take necessary steps to rebuild Afrin, raise infrastructure and wipe out traces of terrorists. Turkish, Free Syrian Army’s flags are hoisted in Afrin town center.”
“We are not there to occupy but to wipe out terror groups and to achieve peace in Afrin,” Erdogan noted.
Also on Sunday, the Turkish General Staff said in a statement that 3,603 terrorists were “neutralized” in Afrin while 46 soldiers were killed and another 225 injured.
Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.
Erdogan has repeatedly said that Afrin should be cleared of “terrorists,” and demanded the deployment of Turkish troops there during a speech back in November 2016.