UPDATES NUMBERS OF NEUTRALIZED TERRORISTS, EDITS THROUGHOUT
By Sinan Uslu and Baris Gundogan
ANKARA/OSMANIYE, Turkey (AA) - A total of 1,951 PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists have been "neutralized" since the beginning of Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday.
Erdogan's remarks came during a provincial congress of his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in the southern province of Osmaniye.
Turkish authorities generally use the term "neutralize" to signify that the targets either surrendered or were killed or captured.
Earlier in the day, the Turkish General Staff said in a statement that a total of 782 terrorist targets had also been hit since the beginning of the operation.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove 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.
Religious and cultural buildings, as well as ancient and archeologic remnants within the scope of the operation are not targeted by the Turkish army during the ongoing operation, the statement added.
The Turkish army also does not use weapons not permitted by international law or accords.
Since the beginning of the operation, 32 soldiers have been martyred, and 183 others injured.
Separately, 28 terrorists were neutralized during counterterrorism operations against PKK/KCK terror group across Turkey between Feb. 17 and Feb. 23.
In addition, 20 infantry rifles, 825 small arms and ammunition for bomb launchers, 16 hand grenades, two anti-personnel mines were among those seized in nationwide operations.
Four weapon pits, shelters, caves, and depots used by terrorists were also destroyed, the statement added.
Three soldiers were martyred, and two others wounded in last week’s operations, according to the statement.
Some 6,864 undocumented migrants were also held in Turkey.
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.