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1266 militants 'neutralized' in Turkey's Afrin operation

1266 militants 'neutralized' in Turkey's Afrin operation

A Turkish army helicopter was shot down by Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters near the north Syrian town of Afrin, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

YPG sources separately confirmed the downing of the helicopter.

Operation Olive Branch was launched by Turkey on January 20 to remove the PKK/PYD/YPG/KCK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin in northwestern Syria.

After Mr Erdogan declared "one of our helicopters was also downed", the Turkish prime minister said the cause of the helicopter's crash was not yet clear and investigations were ongoing.

Turkey considers the group a terrorist organisation and an extension of an insurgency within its own borders that has fought for Kurdish autonomy for more than three decades.

Since Turkey began its attacks, 120 people have been killed, including 26 children and 17 women, according to a statement from the civil administration council in Afrin. She added that around 60,000 had been displaced.

The YPG, meanwhile, accuse Russian Federation of giving a green light for the Turkish attack by withdrawing observers it deployed in Afrin past year.

"This has created a humanitarian crisis, because the capacities of the region are not enough to meet the needs of this massive displacement", she told a news conference.

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The Turkish military said that two soldiers were killed when its attack helicopter crashed and was destroyed around 1 p.m. local time.

Erdogan claimed that 1141 "terrorists" had been "neutralised" in the operation, which includes those captured dead or alive, or those who surrendered. However, the term is usually used for the terrorists who have been killed in the operations.

Murat Karayilan, a member of the PKK's Executive Council, told the pro-Kurdish Firat News Agency that Turkey was telling "lies" about the extent of the casualties it had suffered and number of YPG fighters killed.

Turkey's military issued a brief statement Friday, saying its jets hit 19 targets, including shelters, ammunition depots and gun positions belonging to "terror" organizations.

Twenty one Turkish soldiers have died since the beginning of the operation.

As Turkey's military intervention in Kurdish-majority Afrin, Syria, entered its third week, a parallel public relations battle has raged on airwaves and social media, with varying messages tailored to Armenian and Azerbaijani audiences. "A fighting army can not rely so much on lies".

Unconfirmed Turkish media reports had said that Turkey halted flights after Russia closed the airspace over Afrin after militants shot down a Russian Su-25 fighter jet in Idlib province on February 3.