ANKARA – Turkey’s army claimed to have killed 394 enemy fighters during the first week of a ground offensive into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin (Northwest Syria,) according to a statement released on Saturday.
The Turkish army asserted the dead enemy fighters belonged to different Kurdish militias in Afrin, a region which has been controlled by United States-backed Kurdish groups that Turkey’s government regards as terrorists.
The army statement, which referred to all 394 dead enemy fighters as “terrorists,” claimed that members of the Islamic State terror organization had been also killed in the fighting, adding that the army was coordinating its operation with Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army militia groups.
Turkey’s army said three of its soldiers had been killed and another 30 wounded, while 13 FSA members were killed and 24 injured.
Ankara views the Kurdish militias in Syria as indistinguishable from Kurdish guerrillas inside Turkey, which have fought the Turkish state for three decades in the country’s eastern hinterlands.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Friday stressed the operation was not limited to Afrin only, but would include the entire Syrian border with Turkey.
The Kurdish YPG militia in Syria issued a statement Friday urging Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, to back them against the Turkish army and FSA.
Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on its website that, due to heavy rain and fog, Turkish units were having difficulty advancing into Syrian territory.