Photoblog: Free Syrian Army takes over Afrin

Photoblog: Free Syrian Army takes over Afrin
See in pictures: Syrian rebels, supported by the Turkish military, have managed to wrest control of the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin. Aaref Watad reports from the city.
2 min read
20 Mar, 2018
Turkish-backed FSA have captured Afrin from the Kurdish rebels after a two month offensive
Syrian rebel fighters - backed by the Turkish military - took control of the northern city of Afrin city from the Kurdish militias on Sunday, in the latest front of the war.

Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters 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 FSA force surrounded Afrin from three sides with more than 200,000 civilians reportedly fleeing the city, although the real figure could be lower.

Washington views the YPG as a key ally in the battle against the Islamic State group. Turkey sees the Kurdish militia as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK group is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and EU.

Ankara has been wary of the Kurdish armed group controlling swathes of land along its border, as the PKK has fought a bloody insurgency in Turkey for nearly 35 years.

The US also warned its NATO ally Turkey on Monday it is "deeply concerned" by reports that a Turkish-led assault on the Syrian city of Afrin triggered a civilian exodus.

After much of Afrin's civilian population fled the city, images emerged showing fighters loading trucks with household items and driving off with cars and tractors.

The YPG are believed to have made deals with Bashar al-Assad's regime over the potential future granting of a degree of autonomy over Kurdish areas in exchange for keeping their fight focused on the Islamic State group, and not the Damascus regime.

Aaref Watad is a journalist and photographer from northern Syria. Follow him on Twitter @aboshamariha