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1ST LEAD Turkey's Erdogan says army 'about to enter' Syrian city of Afrin By Ergin Hava in Istanbul

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Istanbul (dpa) - Turkish armed forces are very close to entering the city of Afrin in northern Syria, said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Tuesday, reiterating that Turkey is set to later move its military operation against Kurdish militants further to the east.

"We are about to enter Afrin, there is not much left," Erdogan told a meeting in Ankara.

Turkish armed forces and allied rebels have surrounded the city of Afrin, state-run Anadolu news agency reported earlier in the day.

"We will completely clear Afrin, Manbij and all of northern Syria of these packs of murderers," Erdogan said, referring to the Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia.

The YPG has been the main US ally in the campaign against the Islamic State extremist organization in Syria, but Ankara considers it a terrorist group due to its links with banned Kurdistan Workers‘ Party (PKK) in Turkey.

The United States does not have troops in Afrin, but it has a presence in north-eastern Syria, including the city of Manbij.

Thousands of civilians started to flee the city of Afrin on Monday according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The observatory, a Britain-based war monitor, confirmed the siege on Tuesday, reporting more than 300,000 people remain under siege.

Turkish armed forces and the allied rebels launched an offensive on the region of Afrin - which includes the city of the same name - on January 20, with the aim of dislodging YPG.

"We are entering Afrin to return it to its rightful owners," Erdogan said on Tuesday. He had earlier argued the city was originally mostly Arab.


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