Syrians drive a damaged vehicle in the northwestern border town of al-Bab on February 24, 2017 as they return to their houses after Turkish-backed rebels announced the recapture of the town from the Islamic State (IS) group a day earlier
Syrians drive a damaged vehicle in the northwestern border town of al-Bab on February 24, 2017 as they return to their houses after Turkish-backed rebels announced the recapture of the town from the Islamic State (IS) group a day earlier © Nazeer al-Khatib, Rafat AHMAD - AFP
Syrians drive a damaged vehicle in the northwestern border town of al-Bab on February 24, 2017 as they return to their houses after Turkish-backed rebels announced the recapture of the town from the Islamic State (IS) group a day earlier
AFP
Last updated: February 26, 2017

Ankara says nearly 50,000 Syrians have returned home

Banner Icon War in Syria Tens of thousands of Syrians have returned home from Turkey since the start of Ankara's military operation inside the country, Turkey's foreign minister said Friday.

"Nearly 50,000 Syrians have returned to this area from Turkey since the Euphrates Shield operation started," Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

He was referring to Ankara's ambitious military operation launched last August in northern Syria to help Syrian rebels oust jihadists.

They have recaptured several towns from the Islamic State group (IS), including Jarabulus and Al-Rai near the border after a lightning advance.

Earlier, the Turkish armed forces said the Turkey-backed fighters had "control of all neighbourhoods in Al-Bab", IS's last stronghold in the northern province of Aleppo.

The military said work to clear the areas of obstacles, mines and explosives continued in the town, which was taken by them after a more than two-month campaign.

"I believe after Daesh is cleared from Al-Bab, many people will go back," Cavusoglu told reporters in the southern Turkish city of Antalya, using the Arabic name for IS.

Turkey has repeatedly called for a safe zone inside Syria as well as a "no-fly" zone, where refugees could live safely in the country.

"When there is a safe zone free of terrorism, Syrians have the chance to return to a normal life," Cavusoglu added.

Turkish chief of staff General Hulusi Akar was quoted by local media giving reassurances of Turkish support for people in Al-Bab to ensure they can return to their homes safely after the bloody fight.

Since Turkey launched the operation, 71 Turkish military personnel have been killed, most of whom during the battle for Al-Bab including two soldiers Friday.

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