Manbij next, says Erdogan as Turkey warplanes bomb Syria's Afrin
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ankara plans to launch an operation against US-backed Kurdish militants in the northern Syrian city of Manbij as Turkish warplanes launch airstrikes on positions of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia in Syria.
Erdogan made the announcement in a televised speech in the city of Kutahya on Saturday after Ankara started a de-facto ground operation in the northwestern border region of Afrin in Syria.
"The Afrin operation has de-facto been started on the ground," said Erdogan, adding, “This will be followed by Manbij.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a televised speech on Saturday that Turkish "armed forces have started an air campaign in order to destroy elements" of the YPG.
Reports said that Turkish fighter jets carried out 11 raids on the villages of Ain Dikneh, Mariamin, Tal Rif'at, Kafr Jannah, Maranaz and villages in the vicinity of Afrin in the northern countryside of Aleppo.
Afrin and Manbij are controlled by the YPG, which Ankara views as a terror organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey has in recent days sent dozens of military vehicles and hundreds of troops to the border area. Over the past two days, Turkish forces have been shelling YPG targets around Afrin.
Turkey deployed troops to northern Syria in August 2016 without Damascus’ approval under the pretext of fighting the Takfiri terror group of Daesh. The operation, named Euphrates Shield, however, was later seen turning its focus on the Kurds, whom Turkey associates with anti-Ankara terrorists.