Tens of thousands of Syrians have returned home from Turkey since the start of the Ankara-backed FSA military operation inside the country, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Friday.
“Nearly 50,000 Syrians have returned to this area from Turkey since the Euphrates Shield operation started,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
“I believe after Daesh is cleared from Albab, many people will go back,” Cavusoglu told reporters in the southern Turkish city of Antalya, using the Arabic name for ISIS.
Turkey has repeatedly called for a safe zone inside Syria as well as for 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 army chief of staff General Hulusi Akar was quoted by local media giving reassurances of Turkish support to people in the town of Albab northeast of Aleppo to ensure they can return to their homes safely after the bloody fight.
On Thursday, the Free Syrian Army fighters have seized control of the key town of Albab from the ISIS extremist group as part of the Turkish-backed Operation Euphrates Shield offensive.
A commander of an FSA group taking part in the offensive said that the FSA fighters were now clearing mines and explosive devices laid by ISIS in the town.
The announcement of the liberation of Albab came hours after the FSA groups have captured all the strategic points in the center of the town, most notably the security complex, ISIS’s biggest and most heavily defended bastion.
The town of Albab, roughly 40 km northeast of Aleppo city and 30 km south of the Turkish border, was the last major ISIS stronghold in Aleppo province. It was home to about 200,000 people before it fell to ISIS in January 2014.
In August 24, 2016, FSA groups launched Operation Euphrates Shield to clear ISIS and other terrorist groups from territory south of the Turkish border with Syria with support from Turkish military forces and in coordination with the international anti-ISIS coalition. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)