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Three Turkish soldiers killed clearing bombs in Syria's Afrin: PM

ANKARA (AFP) - 

Three Turkish soldiers died Thursday clearing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the Syrian region of Afrin after the capture of Afrin city at the weekend, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.

"We have three martyrs today. They were martyred while clearing IEDs," Yildirim said in a televised speech in Ankara.

Three more soldiers were injured after an IED exploded, the army said in a statement, confirming the death toll.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian forces seized control of Afrin city from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia on Sunday.

Ankara began its offensive in January against the YPG, which it says is allied with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) waging an insurgency against Turkey since 1984.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror organisation by Turkey and its Western allies.

But the YPG has been working closely with the United States against the Islamic State extremist group in Syria, much to Turkey's chagrin.

Some 250,000 civilians fled the violence in Afrin and dozens of others were killed, as well as around 1,500 Kurdish fighters, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Prior to the latest deaths, 46 Turkish military personnel had been killed during the operation dubbed "Olive Branch".

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to extend the operation to other YPG-controlled areas in northern Syria including the towns of Manbij and Kobane.

© 2018 AFP