GIRESUN, Turkey 

Turkey has neutralized 36 terrorists in anti-terror operations within its borders since mid-July, the country’s interior minister said on Friday.

Suleyman Soylu said 56 caves and other shelters being used by terrorists were destroyed in the multiple Yildirim operations underway in several different regions of Turkey.

A total of 8,400 security personnel, including gendarmerie commandos, gendarmerie special forces, police special forces, and local security teams are part of these operations, according to the minister.

He said 21 million cannabis roots have been seized during the operations.

We changed our strategy in the fight against terrorism, and have now reduced the number of terrorists in Turkey to around 400, the minister added.

Turkish authorities use the term “neutralized” to imply the terrorists in question surrendered or were killed or captured.

The affiliation of the terrorists was not expressly given, but the PKK terror group has been active in the region.

Turkey has launched a series of security operations to neutralize terrorists believed to be sheltering in the country’s eastern and southeastern regions.

Yildirim-1 Cudi was launched in the southeastern province of Sirnak on July 14, Yildirim-2 Cilo in the southeastern Hakkari province on July 20, and Yildirim-3 Mt. Agri in the eastern provinces of Agri, Igdir, and Kars on July 27.

This was followed by Yildirim-4 in the eastern Tunceli province on July 29, Yildirim-5 in the southern province of Hatay on Aug. 12, Yildirim-6 in the eastern Bingol province on Aug. 19, and Yildirim-7 in the southeastern Diyarbakir province on Aug. 26.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.

Managing migrants

Stressing that Ankara follows a humanitarian strategy in migration management, Soylu said Turkey detained some 468,000 illegal migrants last year.

“Our Coast Guard Command rescued a total of 4,592 people alive at sea last year. A total of 8,524 people have been rescued alive in the first eight months of this year,” he said.

Turkey has been a key transit point for asylum seekers aiming to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.

Earlier this year, the country opened the way to asylum seekers looking to reach Europe, accusing the EU of failing to keep its promises under a 2016 migrant deal.

Turkey has repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers at sea, saying that it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.

* Writing by Gozde Bayar

Copyright 2021 Anadolu Agency. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.