ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - The number of Turkish troops killed during Ankara's now two months-long offensive in Afrin has risen to 41, announced Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli on Friday.
He said that the Free Syrian Army (FSA), on the other hand, has had 116 of its members killed. FSA forces have joined Turkish troops in their campaign to capture the enclave of Afrin, in Syrian Kurdistan, from the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
State media reported Canikli's claim that 95 villages or hamlets had come under their control, in a speech he delivered at Istanbul National Defense University.
The previous day was one of the deadliest for the Turkish army since the beginning of its attempted invasion. The General Staff said eight soldiers were killed in clashes, while 13 others were wounded.
Kurdish sources allege both numbers were much higher, with at least 20 dead, and claim that Turkish troops had not made much progress on the ground, except in areas near the border.
Last month, Turkey lost 11 troops in one day, with the YPG shooting down one of its attack helicopters.
Ankara claims 2295 "terrorists neutralized," a term Turkish authorities commonly use for Kurdish forces wounded, killed, or captured. The YPG remains secretive about its own losses.
Top government officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have denied that any civilian has been hurt, with Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag going so far as to assert that not even a "nosebleed" had been recorded.
The local Kurdish administration, the Syrian State, the Russian Federation, plus international watchdogs such as the UN, London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International have all documented civilians killed by Turkish attacks in Afrin.
While figures varied according to different sources, the Kurdish Red Crescent this week said that at least 348 civilians had been killed so far by continued Turkish airstrikes and artillery shelling.
Erdogan's administration has refused to implement a 30-day United Nations Security Council (UNSC) truce in Afrin, despite Kurdish officials' announcement of adherence to the ceasefire and urgings from Western powers, including France and the US.
Washington warned Ankara that its offensive in Syrian Kurdistan distracts Kurdish fighters from the war against the Islamic State (IS).
Editing by John J. Catherine