100 senior terrorists neutralized in 2018: Turkish min.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu says nearly 1,300 terrorists neutralized in counterterrorism operations

100 senior terrorists neutralized in 2018: Turkish min.

Turkish security forces ''neutralized'' 100 so-called senior terrorists in 2018, the interior minister said on Thursday.

"We carried out 87,838 operations against PKK this year. We have neutralized 1,289 terrorists in these operations," Suleyman Soylu told the parliament. 

Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralize" in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.

Soylu added that they have increased the counterterrorism operations in the rural areas 173 percent over last two years.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children.

Separately addressing the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), Soylu said the group faced more than 62,000 counterterrorism operations since the defeated coup on July 15, 2016.

"As a result of the operations, 217,971 people were taken into custody, while 16,884 people were sentenced and 14,750 people are still under arrest," he added.

More than 43,500 former interior ministry personnel have been dismissed in the same period, the minister stated.

FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

Ankara accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.

On Turkey’s cross-border counterterrorism operations in Syria, Soylu said more than 278,000 Syrians returned to areas, including Jarabulus, Azaz, and Afrin, cleared of terrorists.

Operation Euphrates Shield, which began in August 2016 and ended in March 2017, aimed to eliminate the terrorist threat along the border in the northern Syrian regions of Jarabulus, Al-Rai, Al-Bab, and Azaz with the use of the Free Syrian Army, backed by Turkish artillery and air cover.

On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to free Afrin of YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists. On March 18, Turkish troops and the Free Syrian Army liberated the Afrin district center.