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Erdogan vows to press Syria offensive to key Kurdish-held towns

AFP  |  Istanbul 

on today vowed to expand Turkey's offensive in against to key border towns controlled by the group right up to the Iraqi frontier. launched its operation seeking to oust Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia from the Afrin region of on January 20 and Erdogan said Thursday its forces could now enter Afrin town at "any moment". But has always threatened to expand the operation to the east to oust the from the swathe of territory it controls right up to Speaking to supporters in the city of Mersin, Erdogan said the and allied Syrian rebels wanted to oust the from all the towns they control close to the Turkish border. "Once we have purged the terrorists (from Afrin) we will then cleanse them from Manbij, Ayn al-Arab, Tel-Abyad, and Qamishli," he said in televised comments. Manbij, the next main YPG-held town east of Afrin, is a particular flashpoint as it has an American military presence there. Ayn al-Arab, better known by its Kurdish name Kobane, has huge symbolic importance as it was the epicentre of a struggle with Islamic State (IS) jihadists which was eventually won by the Qamishli is seen as the main town of the YPG-controlled region. regards the as a terror group and a branch of militants in who have waged an insurgency for decades. The however has worked closely with the in the fight against IS and the campaign has raised tensions with Turkey's NATO ally Erdogan questioned why NATO had not come to Turkey's aid in its operation when had backed critical alliance campaigns worldwide. "Hey NATO where are you?" Erdogan asked. "We came in response to the calls on Afghanistan, and the Balkans, and now I am making the call, let's go to Why don't you come?" Today, the Britain-based for Human Rights monitoring group said the Turkish forces were now four kilometres from Afrin town.

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First Published: Sat, March 10 2018. 20:00 IST