By Muhammet Emin Avundukluoglu
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey’s anti-terror Operation Kiran in the country’s southeast has “neutralized a total of 121 PKK terrorists and destroyed nearly 229 caves, shelters and warehouses, Turkish interior minister said on Wednesday.
“363 terrorists this year, and 1,144 terrorists in total were neutralized after identification of their locations by unmanned aerial vehicles," Suleyman Soylu told the members of Turkish parliament's planning and budget commission.
Turkish authorities often use the term "neutralized" to imply the terrorists in question surrendered or were killed or captured.
In the first ten months of the current year, 289 terrorists surrendered to security forces by persuasion efforts, Soylu said.
On Aug. 17, Turkey launched Operation Kiran in the country's southeast against YPG/PKK terrorists in Van, Hakkari and Sirnak provinces, followed by the launch of Operation Kiran-2 on Aug. 27 in Mardin, Sirnak and Batman provinces. Four more iterations of the operation followed, including Operation Kiran-6, launched on Nov. 13.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the PKK's Syrian offshoot.
Soylu also informed the lawmakers about Syrians returning to their homes in northern Syria.
"As a result of [Turkey’s] cross-border anti-terror operations against Daesh and PKK/YPG, 368,217 Syrians have returned to their country," he said.
Since 2016, Turkey has conducted three successful operations in northern Syria against the terrorist YPG/PKK and Daesh/ISIS: Operation Euphrates Shield (2016-17), Operation Olive Branch (2018), and Operation Peace Spring.
Operation Peace Spring, launched on Oct. 9, aims to eliminate terrorist YPG/PKK elements from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
On Oct. 22, Turkey reached an agreement with Russia to allow the YPG/PKK terror group to withdraw from the safe zone.