Turkey captures over 700 militants in Syria in 2020, including 570 Kurds

Turkish troops and allied Syrian opposition groups captured 707 militants during operations in northern Syria in 2020, the office of Abdullah Erin, governor of the southern border province of Şanlıurfa said in a statement on Tuesday.

Including recovered corpses, the troops “neutralised a total of 709 terrorists”, the governor’s office said, using Turkey’s preferred phrasing for enemy combatants captured dead or alive.

All militants taken into custody in northern Syria were members of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a majority-Kurdish group that Turkey considers to be the Syrian wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), or the Islamic State (ISIS), according to the statement.

In the border region of Tel Abyad, Turkey-affiliated combatants captured alive 349 YPG members and 126 ISIS members. One YPG member’s body was also seized.

In Ras al Ayn, 224 YPG members and 11 ISIS members were taken into custody and the corpses of three YPG members were commandeered.

The militants were captured in operations that aimed to “prevent external terrorist infiltrations of the operation grounds”, the governorate said, referring to the areas taken during Operation Peace Spring in 2019, namely those in Aleppo, Hasakah and Raqqa.

“Operations have stopped 71 attempted terrorist attacks by YPG/PKK targeting local security units and innocent civilians in the region,” it said.

Turkey has also completed “great improvements for education, healthcare, transportation, agriculture, commerce and municipal services”, the governorate said. It has also established a local police force in Ras al Ayn and Tel Abyad answering to the General Directorate of Security in Turkey via the Şanlıurfa governorate.

The YPG took control of Tel Abyad in 2015, ending an ISIS occupation in the area. It also controlled Ras al Ayn after 2013, with support from the United States, until Operation Peace Spring began.