UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS FROM TURKISH PM; ADDS NIGERIEN PREMIER'S REMARKS
By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet
ANKARA (AA) - Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Wednesday 214 targets had been hit and destroyed so far during Operation Olive Branch in Syria's Afrin area.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Nigerien counterpart Brigi Rafini in capital Ankara, Yildirim said the operation was continuing as planned.
"214 targets were hit and neutralized. Clearing operations in the area are ongoing," he said.
The military generally uses the term "neutralize" to signify that targets were killed.
He added the operation would continue until the area was completely cleared of terror groups like the PYD/YPG/PKK and Daesh.
On Saturday, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria, on Turkey’s border.
According to the 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 resolutions, and its right to self-defense under the UN charter and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military also said "utmost importance" is being placed on not harming 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.
- Fight against terror
Meanwhile, Yildirim said Niger continues to work hard against terror.
Niger is showing serious efforts to prevent the settlement of terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram in Niger, which were trying to disrupt stability in the country, Yildirim said.
Both sides also discussed defense cooperation, he said.
Yildirim said Niger was against the coup attempt in Turkey in 2016 and supports democracy.
He said Niger transferred Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) schools in Niger to the Maarif Foundation quickly.
"We thank you for this in the name of our country and nation," Yildirim said.
Turkey established the Maarif Foundation in 2016 to take over the administration of overseas schools linked to FETO. It also establishes schools and education centers abroad. To date around 30 African countries have handed over FETO schools to Maarif or closed them down at Ankara's request.
FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured. Ankara accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
Rafini, for his part, said Turkey and Niger have similarities in the fight against terror.
He said, as a country which was fighting against Boko Haram terrorism, they agree with the objectives of Turkey's Operation Olive Branch.