Turkish and Syrian rebel force captures Afrin from YPG
Syrian rebel and Turkish troops captured central Afrin Sunday, ending Kurdish militants' control of the city, Turkey's president announced Saturday.
Free Syrian Army fighters and armour were filmed in Afrin city centre raising the Turkish and Syrian revolutionary flags above local government buildings, after the People's Protection Units (YPG) defenders fled.
"The YPG withdrew because they were overwhelmed with the operation," one rebel fighter told The New Arab.
"The city was not read. Our people in the two saw the HQ being abandoned weeks ago. Our intention of liberating the town was bigger than their hope of keeping Afrin as a separate Kurdish entity."
The rapid advance in the city comes after the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) defenders fled the city as the Turkish-rebel force encircled Afrin over the past few days.
The New Arab reported Saturday that a Turkish-rebel assault was expected in the next two days, with sleeper cells seizing Afrin's administration buildings.
The collapse of YPG defences in Afrin comes after a two-month campaign against the Kurdish nationalist force in northwest Syria.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told supporters that the city was now in the hands of the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army.
"Units of the Free Syrian Army, which are backed by Turkish armed forces, took control of the centre of Afrin this morning at 8:30am," he said.
"Now the Turkish flag will fly over there! The flag of the Free Syrian Army will fly over there."
YPG fighters planted mines in the city before they fled Afrin, along with more than 200,000 civilians. Turkish and FSA forces are now involved in de-mining operations.
Turkey's Operation Olive Branch against the YPG in northwest Syria began on 20 January, with the joint Turkish-Syrian rebel force making rapid advances in the mountainous region.
Turkey insists the YPG is part of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade' long insurgency against the Turkish military.