Turkish-backed forces have taken full control of the centre of the Syrian-Kurdish city of Afrin as fighters waved flags and tore down the statue of a legendary Kurdish figure after claiming the city centre on Sunday.
The two-month Turkish-led operation aimed to rid the border region of a Kurdish militia that Turkey considers a terrorist group.
Activists say 280 civilians have died, although this is denied by Ankara.
Earlier, Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced that “units of the Free Syrian Army took control of the centre of Afrin this morning”.
Operations continued on Sunday to clear mines and remaining Kurdish resistance elsewhere in Afrin.
“Most of the terrorists have already fled with tails between their legs,” the Turkish president said.
“In the centre of Afrin, symbols of trust and stability are waving instead of rags of terrorists.
Pictures and video footage emerged of forces tearing down a Kurdish statue with a bulldozer.
The monument depicted the blacksmith Kawa, a legendary figure for Kurds.
A statement on a Whatsapp group for the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces called it the “first blatant violation of Kurdish people’s culture and history since the takeover of Afrin”.
A Turkish armed forces Twitter page posted a video of troops displaying the nation’s flag in Afrin’s centre.
Mohammad al-Hamadeen, the spokesman for the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), said they met no resistance as they entered Afrin on three fronts.
“Maybe it will be cleared by the end of the day – it is empty of [YPG] fighters, they cleared out,” he said.
In a televised statement, the co-chair of Afrin’s regional council said the war against Turkey had entered “a new stage”. Kurdish forces remained in the region and would become “a constant nightmare” for Turkey, he added.
The statement also said civilians had not fled but were evacuated “to avoid a worse catastrophe”.
SOURCE: Agency reports