Turkey says 260,000 Syrians have returned following operation Euphrates Shield to oust Kurdish YPG forces and IS militants.
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have returned to a northern swathe of land in the war-torn country where Turkish troops carried out operation Euphrates Shield.
Ankara said on Thursday some 260,000 Syrians refugees had returned to where troops had carried out a cross-border operation to clear US-backed Kurdish YPG forces and IS militants.
“As a result of the infrastructure work and security and stability in the region provided by the Turkish Armed Forces, around 260,000 Syrian nationals have returned to the Euphrates Shield Operation area,” Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Thursday.
Euphrates Shield began on August 24, 2016 and ended on March 29 the following year – particularly targeting the city of Al-Bab, large parts of which were destroyed in the three-month urban battle between Turkish-backed Syrian militiamen and IS.
Analyst Paul Iddon told The New Arab in September that Turkish efforts in the northern region, including training local police and security forces, many of which have pledged their allegiance to Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, indicated Ankara plans to retain a significant presence and influence over the region indefinitely.
Turkey is currently hosting more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, which some Turks see as a burden on the country’s economy and infrastructure.
Akar also said Turkey’s presence in northern Iraq targeting the bases of Kurdistan Workers’ Party militants would continue until what he described as the terrorist threat to Turkish territory had ended.On Tuesday the Turkish military killed seven Kurdish militants in air strikes in northern Iraq, in response to reports they were preparing to launch an attack on regions were Turkish bases are located, according to a statement on Twitter.