The Free Syrian Army has announced that together with the Turkish military they have entered the northwestern Syrian town of Afrin as the YPG pulls out to regime-controlled areas south of the enclave.

A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army said they entered Afrin before dawn from three fronts, meeting no resistance.
A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army said they entered Afrin before dawn from three fronts, meeting no resistance. (Reuters)

Turkish Armed Forces and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) entered Afrin town in northwestern Syria as PKK-linked YPG militants withdrew in the face of a Turkish-led border security mission, TRT World has learned. 

FSA spokesman Mohammad Hamadin told TRT World that the YPG had pulled out from most of the town and that the FSA was searching for any remaining militants. 

TRT World's Assed Baig was there as the events unfolded and has the latest from Afrin.

Hamadin said the FSA entered the town from the north, east and west and that fleeing YPG members had withdrawn to regime-held areas to the south of the town.

The Turkish Armed Forces said in a tweet that it is currently searching the area for mines and home-made explosives. It also released pictures and videos of Turkish soldiers and FSA fighters celebrating in the town centre.

Marking the 103rd anniversary of a Turkish victory in the Battle of Gallipoli in the city of Canakkale, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that the Turkish flag was now flying in Afrin's town centre.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group also reported that Turkish forces and allied fighters seized some neighbourhoods in Afrin, and that fighting is still ongoing inside the town. 

The YPG's local representative body in Afrin confirmed the withdrawal of its militants many hours after the news made headlines.

The YPG is the Syrian branch of the PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU. 

Turkey launched its border mission, dubbed Operation Olive Branch, on January 20 with the aim of establishing security and stability along its borders after much of northern Syria fell under YPG control.

Defence analyst Oubai Shahbandar joined TRT World in the studio to summarise the two-month Turkish operation in Afrin. 

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation also aims to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty. 

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defence rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it has said.

The military also said only terror targets are being destroyed and that "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming civilians.

TRT World's Andrew Hopkins has more information from Ankara.

Having secured Afrin, Turkey is now tasked with ensuring the safe return of civilians who have been displaced from the town due to years of fighting.

Murat Aslan is a lecturer in Security Studies at the Hasan Kalyoncu University. He joins TRT World from Ankara with his analysis on Turkey's victory in Afrin and how Turkey will secure the return of displaced Syrians to the town.

TRT World correspondent Caitlin McGee is in the Turkish border town of Kilis, which regularly suffered from rocket attacks by the YPG from Afrin before the Turkish operation started.

She points out that Turkey has made it clear that it does not intend on surrendering Afrin to Bashar al Assad's regime, and instead seeks to establish a safe zone along its border.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies