Turkish soldiers and opposition groups take the city. The statue of a popular figure of Kurdish culture and tradition has been demolished. Ankara intends to continue the operation until "the area is secure". The Kurds promise resistance and announce targeted attacks "at the first opportunity".
Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Turkish army, supported by Islamic extremist groups of the Syrian opposition, has taken full control of Afrin, winning the resistance of the Kurdish militias YPG (People's Protection Unit). In these hours soldiers and militiamen roam the streets of the city with Turkish flags and anti-Assad opposition banners, with three stars in the middle instead of the two of the traditional banner. The statue depicting a leader of the Kurdish minority has been demolished.
Two months after beginning the operation "Olive Branch", Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ousted the YPG fighting groups termed as "terrorists" by Ankara. Over 280 civilians were killed during the operation, a figure strongly denied by the Turkish government.
Earlier Erdogan proclaimed "full control of the center of Afrin" by "units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), formed by some of the many rebel groups fighting against Damascus. From the center of the city came images and videos of some fighters busy tearing down a statue of the famous blacksmith Kawa, a popular and legendary figure of the Kurdish tradition.
In a note some personalities linked to the Kurdish fighting movements claim that the demolition constitutes a "blatant violation of the culture and history of the Kurdish people" just a few hours after the conquest of Afrin. In response, Turkish military spokesman Bekir Bozdag reports that the military campaign is set to continue until "the area is secure".
However, the victory of the Turkish-led military coalition does not seem to have extinguished the Kurdish resistance. In a televised message, co-chairman of Afrin Othman executive board Sheikh Issa confirms that the war against Ankara "has entered a new phase". The Kurdish forces, he continues, remain in the region and "will hit the positions of the Turkish enemy and its mercenaries at the first opportunity". "We will become - he concludes - a constant threat to them".
It remains now to understand what Erdogan's next moves will be and if the offensive will push up to Manbij (and Kobane), with the risk of an open clash with the US military stationed in the area and allied with the Kurds. Moreover, for Ankara there is also the risk that Afrin's residents - mostly Kurds - take up arms in an attempt to push the Turkish aggressor back across the border.