By Ahmet Ozler
KARABUK, Turkey (AA) - A huge crowd gathered in Turkey late Thursday to pay tribute to an officer who fell in battle during Turkey's counter-terrorist operation in northern Syria.
Senior Infantry Sgt. Omer Bilal Akpinar was martyred on Wednesday in a mortar attack by PYD-YPG/PKK/KCK and Daesh terrorists in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region.
Throngs attended the ceremony in Turkey’s northern Karabuk province to support the family of the martyred soldier and pay their last respects.
Hafize Nur Akpinar, the officer’s widow, attended the funeral with her uniform of her late husband.
Also attending the funeral were Deputy Prime Minister Fikri Isik, ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party Karabuk Deputy Mehmet Ali Sahin, and Karabuk Governor Kemal Ceber.
After funeral prayers, Akpinar was buried in the Martyrs Cemetery of the Safranbolu district.
Turkey on Jan 20. launched Operation Olive Branch to remove the threat of PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.
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 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 a fight.