UPDATES WITH MORE QUOTES FROM AK PARTY SPOKESMAN
By Baris Gundogan and Ilkay Guder
ANKARA (AA) - The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party spokesman confirmed Friday that 400 Daesh prisoners had been released in northern Syria to fight Turkey.
"It is confirmed that 400 Daesh prisoners in Raqqa, Afrin and Deir ez-Zour were released on the condition that they will fight against Turkey," Mahir Unal said at a news conference following a Central Decision and Executive Board meeting of the AK Party.
AK Party spokesman said the National Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli gave briefing on the country's recently launched Operation Olive Branch in Syria's Afrin.
"We have revealed how the PYD/PKK-Daesh relations in Raqqa was uncovered […] It is confirmed that especially in Raqqa, Afrin and Deir ez-Zour, 400 Daesh militants were released from prison by the PYD/PKK on the condition of fighting against Turkey," he said.
He said the terrorist PYD/PKK's recent move refuted the U.S.' claims of fighting against Daesh on the ground.
Unal's remarks came after Vassily Nebenzia, Russia's permanent representative to the UN, told a Security Council meeting the PYD/PKK terror group in northern Syria pardoned 400 Daesh members in early January.
Adding some of them to the ranks of the PYD/PKK-led group SDF, Nebenzia said 120 of released Daesh terrorists entered the ranks of the PYD/PKK terror group in Syria.
The terrorist group struck a deal with Daesh terrorists to use them as a tool against Turkey's Operation Olive Branch in Afrin, the sources told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.
The PYD/PKK captured many civilians who were fleeing the clashes between Kurdish and Arab opposition groups, putting them in prisons in the townships of Rajo and Jinderes in the west of Afrin, as well as in underground cells.
The number of civilians being held in prisons, with no official charges against them, is estimated at 1,100. It was also reported that some of the detainees were told they were “convicted” for life.
Regarding the issue, Unal said the terrorist PYD/PKK's oppression and tyranny against the civilians in the region continues to exist.
Turkey on Jan. 20 launched Operation Olive Branch to remove PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
According to Turkish General Staff, the 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 is 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 for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military has also said that only terrorist targets are being destroyed and "utmost importance" is being given to not harm any 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.