Turkey takes full control of Syria's Afrin region, reports say

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Turkish military continues its sweep for mines and explosives to allow Afrin’s resident’s to return

People carry belongings on tractor in Afrin on Saturday (Reuters)
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Monday 26 March 2018 1:06 UTC
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Turkey's military and its Syrian rebel allies have taken full control of northwest Syria's Afrin region, a Turkish army source said on Saturday, as aid workers distributed food to people in the area.

Turkish forces and the Syrian fighters swept into the main Afrin town last Sunday after an eight-week campaign to drive out the Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara regards as a terrorist group.

A military source told Reuters the last remaining villages had been seized and control established overnight.

"Control has been completely achieved in the Afrin region and search operations are continuing so that local people can return safely to their houses," the source said.

State-run Anadolu news agency carried a similar report.

Anadolu said the Turkish military was continuing its sweep for mines and explosives to allow Afrin’s resident’s to return, after air strikes and clashes with Syrian Kurdish forces.

Associated Press journalists on a tour organised by the Turkish government Saturday passed through the northwestern town of Jinderes en route to central Afrin.

Jinderes, captured by Turkey and allied Syrian opposition fighters, was the scene of heavy street clashes earlier in March. The AP saw a widely destroyed and empty town.

In Afrin, people queued to receive hot food that was being distributed by the Turkish Red Crescent while Turkish soldiers kept security and armoured vehicles moved along the streets.

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"We are trying to bring back life to normal in the short and medium term here," the aid group's president, Kerem Kinik, told Reuters. "Our mobile kitchens are here, and our crews are in the villages."

"We want everything to be all right. We want our women and children to come back. They could not come back to their homeland," said Afrin resident Abdurrahman Nahsen Suleymanoglu.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected criticism of the Afrin campaign in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday, according to a Turkish presidential source.

Among Turkey's Western allies, France has been one of the biggest critics of the Turkish military operation, with its foreign minister saying concerns for its border security did not justify the incursion.