ANKARA - *Ankara says 41 of its soldiers have been killed in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin, where the Turkish military has been engaged in a ground operation against US-backed Kurdish militants for more than a month.*
Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli made the announcement in a speech delivered at Istanbul National Defense University on Friday, adding that 95 villages or hamlets had come under their control during the so-called Operation Olive Branch.
Canikli further said that 116 members of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) militant group, which has joined Turkish troops in their campaign against members of the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG).
Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency quoted Canikli as saying that 2,295 militants of Kurdish factions and Daesh terrorists had been “neutralized” in the offensive, which was launched on January 19.
The Turkish government has said the recent United Nations Security Council resolution on a month-long ceasefire in Syria will have no effect on its cross-border operations.
Ankara views the YPG as a terror organization and the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Ties between Ankara and Washington has further soured over the latter’s support for the Kurdish militants operating at Turkish doorstep.
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch, its second military intervention in Syia since 2011, after Washington said it would set up a border force comprising 30,000 Kurdish militants near Turkish soil.
Turkey has warned that the Afrin offensive could expand to the nearby Syrian city of Manbij.
Syria has slammed both Turkish and US military activities on its soil as a violation of the Arab nation’s sovereignty.