Turkish Forces 'Encircle' Syrian-Kurdish City ‘Afrin’

CAPITALS — The Turkish military says it has surrounded the Kurdish-held city of Afrin in northern Syria, the focus of an offensive against a Kurdish militia.

A statement said troops and allied Syrian rebels had also captured “critically important areas”.

A Kurdish source confirmed that all roads into the city were now being targeted by Turkish shellfire.

Hundreds of civilians reportedly fled the city to nearby areas controlled by the Syrian government on Monday.

The Turkish operation aimed at driving the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia out of Afrin began on 20 January.

The Turkish government says the YPG is an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in south-eastern Turkey for three decades, and considers it a terrorist group.

The YPG denies any direct organisational links to the PKK – an assertion backed by the US, which has provided the militia and allied Arab fighters with weapons and air support to help them battle the jihadist group Islamic State (IS).

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, confirmed that Turkish-led forces were besieging Afrin, 90 villages and a nearby town on Tuesday. The only road out was in range of Turkish artillery fire and was therefore impassable, it said.

YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud acknowledged that all roads in the area were being targeted by Turkish bombardment.

But he told Reuters news agency that Afrin had long been surrounded “from all directions”, and that Turkey was spreading false news to boost morale.


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