Forces drive Kurds from Afrin

ISTANBUL/BEIRUT – Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies swept into the northwestern Syrian town of Afrin on Sunday, raising their flags in the town centre and declaring full control after an eight-week campaign to drive out Kurdish YPG forces.

A spokesman for the rebel fighters said they entered Afrin before dawn, meeting no resistance. A war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said pockets of YPG fighters defied orders to withdraw, but Turkish forces were in control.

The fight for Afrin, a once-stable pocket of northwest Syria, has opened a new front in Syria’s multi-sided civil war and highlighted the ever-greater role of foreign powers such as Turkey in the seven-year-old conflict.

Ankara says Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters are an extension of a militant group waging an insurgency inside Turkey, and vowed to crush what it described as a “terror corridor” of YPG-controlled territory along Turkey’s southern border with Syria.

It has threatened to extend the Afrin offensive to another Kurdish-controlled region further east where US forces are stationed alongside the YPG, Washington’s ally against Islamic State in Syria.