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    Turkish Army soldiers prepare their tanks next to empty shells at a staging area in the outskirts of the village of Sugedigi, Turkey, on the border with Syria, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018

    Erdogan: Turkey's Battles to Continue Until No Terrorist is Left on Iraqi Border

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    Friday marks the seventh day of Turkey's third military operation in Syria, dubbed the Olive Branch. According to Turkish military, a total of "343 terrorists" have been neutralized in the course of the campaign.

    "We will be clearing our borders of terrorists up to the territory of Iraq. Manbij will be also cleared of terrorists, as we promised. I am addressing those who urge us to stop the operation as soon as possible — if you were hit by missiles, what would you do?" Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the meeting with leaders of the regional branches of the ruling Justice and Development Party.

    According to Erdogan, Turkey will rid Syria's Manbij of terrorists after Afrin and nobody should be bothered by this.

    US forces are currently deployed in Manbij alongside Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters, considered by Ankara affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist organization in Turkey and several other countries.

    READ MORE: White House 'Distorted' Account of Erdogan-Trump Talks on Afrin Op — Reports

    Previously, the Turkish president stated that Ankara would "thwart games of different powers who seek to implement their plans in our region" and "completely clear the region of terrorists, beginning with Manbij and throughout our entire border [with Syria]."

    According to the latest data released by the Turkish military, a total of 343 "terrorists" have been eliminated since the beginning of the Olive Branch operation, which was launched on January 20.

    Ankara has emphasized that its operation is not aimed against the Syrian government, saying that the preservation of the territorial integrity of Syria is the common goal of Ankara and Damascus. According to the Turkish foreign minister, "Damascus knows that the YPG militias [People's Protection Units] want to divide Syria."

    READ MORE: Ankara Has No Quarrel With Kurds, Afrin Operation Ensuring Security — Deputy PM

    Turkey has been mulling its military operation since the US announced its plans to train a 30,000-strong border force in northern Syria mostly from YPG fighters, which are considered as terrorists by Ankara. Washington's move was harshly criticized by Turkey, with President Erdogan threatening to "strangle" the forming "terrorist army." Within a week after the announcement, Ankara launched an offensive in Syria's Kurdish enclave of Afrin code-named Olive Branch and aimed at eliminating terrorists in the region.

    Moscow has also voiced opposition to Washington's plans, with Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying on Thursday that the US strategy in Syria seeks to divide the country.

    Turkey regards the YPG militias (People's Protection Units), which are fighting Daesh in Syria, as a terrorist group since Ankara suspects them of ties with the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), which has been waging an armed conflict in Turkey seeking autonomy and equal rights for the Kurds in the country.

    Tags:
    Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Manbij, Afrin, Turkey, Syria
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