Turkey “neutralized” over 400 high-level terrorists over past two-and-half years, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.
“In just two-and-half years alone, we have neutralized 420 so-called high-level terrorists, including 16 red-listed terrorists,” Erdogan told members of domestic security agencies following fast-breaking meal, or iftar, in Istanbul.
Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply that the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
“We have decreased the number of terrorists on our borders to around 700, which was once around 2,000,” he said, adding that there was a considerable decrease in number of people joining the terror group and its capacity to act.
Erdogan also said that the “murderers”, who attempted to attack on unity, solidarity and lives of Turkish nation, have been made to pay the price of each drop of blood they shed. “They will continue to pay for it,” he added.
He noted that Turkey’s operations in Syria have dealt a heavy blow to offshoots of Daesh and PKK terrorist groups.
Some 320,000 out of around 3.6 million Syrians, who took refuge in Turkey due to the civil war in their country, have returned to home thanks to Ankara’s operations which cleared the area of terrorists.
He highlighted that other areas under the control of terror group would be cleared “suddenly in one night.”
Erdogan reiterated that the country would never allow the formation of a terror corridor near its borders, and added: “We will not leave the future of our Syrian Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen brothers to the mercy of new colonial aspirations.”
On Turkey’s fight against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), Erdogan said: “We will continue to fight until last betrayer FETO member is brought to justice.”
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.
Turkey 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.
*Writing by Sena Guler