By Sertac Bulur
ANKARA (AA) – Twenty-four suspects were arrested for promotion of PYD/PKK terrorist organization on social media across Turkey last week, according to Interior Ministry on Monday.
In a written statement, the ministry said Turkish security forces arrested the suspects during nationwide operations for their terrorist PYD/PKK propaganda against ongoing Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s northwestern Afrin.
On Saturday, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and Daesh terror groups from northwestern Afrin region of Syria.
The statement also said security forces carried out 1,061 counter-terror operations between Jan. 15 and Jan. 22.
During the operations, 12 terrorists were “neutralized”, eight were held while four others surrendered, it added.
Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralized" in their statements to imply that the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or held.
During the operations, 170 suspects were arrested on charges of aiding and abetting the terror group, PKK, while 27 others were taken into custody for alleged links to Daesh.
- FETO suspects held
Police also arrested 615 others for suspected ties to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) -- the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Turkey -- and 11 others for links to leftist terrorist groups.
Thirty-five shelters and caves used by PKK terrorists and three improvised explosive devices and mines were destroyed in controlled detonations in the southeastern provinces of Hakkari, Batman, Tunceli, Sirnak and Van.
During the operations, security forces also seized 367 kilograms (809 pounds) of explosives material, 25 hand grenades, 3,804 rounds of ammunition, and 26 weapons, including 20 long-barreled guns and heavy weapons.
Additionally, 2,536 anti-narcotics and anti-contraband operations were carried out, during which 3,780 suspects were captured in nationwide operations, according to the statement.
The raids led to the seizure of 2,396 kg (5,282 lb.) of hashish, 366 kg (806 lb.) of heroin, 34 kg (75 Ib.) methamphetamine, 80,918 illegal drugs, 488,000 packages of smuggled cigarettes and over 142,000 liters of smuggled oil.
Security forces also arrested 823 suspects for crimes related to terrorism and 71 others for organized trafficking of migrants, while 7,532 undocumented migrants were arrested for illegal border crossings.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the Afrin operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkish borders and the region as well as to protect the Syrian people from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.
- No harm to civilians
The operation was being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council’s decisions, self-defense rights under the UN charter and respect to Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military also said "utmost importance" was being given to not harm any civilian.
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 putting up a fight.
The Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), led by U.S.-based Fetullah Gulen, orchestrated the July 15, 2016 defeated coup in Turkey, leaving 250 people martyred and around 2,200 others wounded.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey as well as the U.S. and EU. In its terror campaign against Turkey, which has lasted for more than three decades, over 40,000 people have been killed.
Since the group resumed its armed campaign in July 2015, more than 1,200 people, including security forces personnel and civilians, have lost their lives.
In recent years, Turkey has also suffered from a number of attacks by Daesh, including the October 2015 Ankara train station bombing that killed more than 100 people.