No civilian casualties in Turkey’s Syria operation – Turkish minister

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said there had been no civilian casualties at all so far in his country’s operation in the Afrin region of Syria, CNN Türk said.

Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies launched an offensive against the northwestern Syrian enclave of Afrin on Jan. 20 to drive Syrian Kurdish forces out of the region. Turkish warplanes have conducted a number of air strikes as artillery has pounded the area.

“These are propaganda pictures taken over there, they have no value,” it quoted him as saying. “We are very careful about such things. No civilians at all have been killed up to today.”

CNN International reports of civilian deaths were false propaganda, Çavuşoğlu said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, said last week that 68 civilians had been killed in Afrin.

“These are propaganda. These are the propaganda of the PKK and the YPG. They are the propaganda of those who sympathise with the PKK and YPG abroad,” he said.

The majority-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) belongs to the same umbrella group as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has been fighting the Turkish state intermittently for more than 30 years.

The operation in Afrin was “advancing as we wanted it to”, Çavuşoğlu said.

“Of course, every soldier and every security personnel is ready to be martyred when they go to their duty, but we (still) need to take precautions.”

Çavuşoğlu also said he had received a written apology from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) over former Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim that Turkey had bought petrol from the Islamic State (ISIS).

“The CIA apologised to us in writing,” he said.