By Levent Tok, Omer Koparan, Andac Hongur
Turkish Armed Forces and Free Syrian Army (FSA) on Sunday took complete control of northwestern Syria's Afrin town center, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Sunday.
"Afrin town center was completely taken control of at 8.30 a.m.," Erdogan said during his address at the ceremony of 103rd anniversary of Gallipoli Campaign.
"We will have to take necessary steps to rebuild Afrin, raise infrastructure and wipe out traces of terrorists," he said, adding: "Turkish, Free Syrian Army’s flags are hoisted in Afrin town center."
"We are not there to occupy but to wipe out terror groups and to achieve peace in Afrin," Erdogan added.
Turkish General Staff, in a written statement, said search for mines, improvised explosive devices are in progress in the town.
According to Anadolu Agency correspondents on the ground, the troops entered the town center at around 5 a.m. local time (GMT0200) from east, west and north sides.
During the entrance, some mines placed by terrorists at entry points of the district exploded as FSA fighters advanced into the the town center, it was learned.
Without encountering any kind of resistance, they took complete control of the town center.
FSA -- after taking control of the biggest neighborhoods Ashrafieh, Jamiliyah and Mahmudiyah in the town center's north -- advanced to the old bus stop area, according to the correspondents.
IEDs being defused
The improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and mines are currently being defused. Utmost care is being taken to not harm any civilians.
YPG/PKK terrorists -- before the beginning of Operation Olive Branch -- held civilians hostage at the town center, in a bid to use them as human shields.
However, the ongoing operation forced so-called leaders of the terrorist group camped at Mount Qandil to flee, leaving behind a few terrorists who impersonated civilians by wearing their clothing.
Saturday's action led to the liberation of 12 villages, cleared the last terrorist stronghold Mabatli village and encircled the city centre from three sides -- forcing the remaining terrorists to flee the area.
Turkey on Jan. 20 launched Operation Olive Branch to remove PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey's borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from terrorist cruelty and oppression.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military has also said that only terrorist targets are being destroyed and "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming any civilians.
Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012, when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without a fight.
Turkish forces control all town centers in Afrin
Turkish Armed Forces and Free Syrian Army on Sunday took control of all town centers in northwestern Syria's Afrin.
According to Anadolu Agency correspondents on the ground, the last town center Mabatli was liberated from terrorists by the Turkish troops.