By Mustafa Yildirim and Yusuf Sahbaz
IZMIR (AA) – At least 33 people were arrested across Turkey on Tuesday for suspected promotion of the PYD/PKK terrorist group on their social media accounts, according to security officials.
On Sunday, investigations were launched by chief public prosecutor's offices in Ankara, Van, Diyarbakir, Mardin, Mus, and Istanbul against social media users who allegedly voiced support for the PYD/PKK terror group.
Seventeen were arrested in raids across three provinces in an operation coordinated by police in the western province of Izmir, an official said on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media.
The provincial head of the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Cerkez Aydemir was also arrested. He is accused of spreading terror propaganda.
Arrests came after the Izmir’s Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into social media activity promoting the terrorist organization against Turkey’s ongoing military operation in Syria’s Afrin region.
On Saturday, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and Daesh terror groups from northwestern Afrin region of Syria.
In a separate operation, police arrested six people suspected of spreading terrorist propaganda on public transport and sharing video footage of the group on social media.
Suspects were preparing to organize a protest in the Bornova district of the province, the source added.
In each of the eastern Igdir province and the Mediterranean province of Mersin, five people were arrested on similar charges.
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.
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 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 putting up a fight.
*Huseyin Yildiz from Igdir and Mustafa Gungor from Mersin contributed to the story.