Turkish forces enter Syria's Kurdish-held Afrin canton

Turkish forces enter Syria's Kurdish-held Afrin canton
Turkish troops, whose number was not specified, are advancing alongside Syrian rebel fighters towards the Kurdish-held town of Afrin, state media has reported.
2 min read
21 January, 2018
Turkish troops have built up their forces around Afrin ahead of an expected assault. [Getty]

Turkish ground forces on Sunday crossed the Syrian border into the Afrin region on the second day of Ankara's military operation against the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish militia, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.

On Saturday Ankara launched airstrikes on Afrin moments after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of operations to capture Afrin from YPG.

Yildirim told Turkish reporters in a briefing in Istanbul that the troops crossed into the YPG-controlled region in Syria at 8.05am GMT from the Turkish village of Gulbaba, the Dogan news agency reported.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said that the Turkish army troops, whose number was not specified, were advancing alongside forces from the pro-Ankara Free Syrian Army (FSA).

The Dogan news agency published images of tanks and armoured vehicles pushing through grassy terrain.

Turkish attacks in the Afrin region of northern Syria killed ten people on Saturday, mostly civilians, a spokesman for the Kurdish militia which controls the area said.

Ankara launched a series of strikes on YPG positions in Afrin on Friday night and early Saturday, but Yildirim's announcement is the first confirmation that Turkish ground troops were now involved in the operation inside Syria.

The Turkish PM was quoted as saying that the Turkish forces aimed to create a security zone some 30 kilometres deep inside Syria.

Afrin is held by the YPG, a Kurdish militia force that Ankara claims is allied to the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey.

The YPG has been the key ally of Turkey's fellow NATO member the United States in the fight against IS militants, playing a key role in pushing the extremists out of their Syrian strongholds.