1266 militants 'neutralized' in Turkey's Afrin operation

Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said an army helicopter had been "shot down" near the southern Hatay province.

The state-run Anadolu agency, citing the Turkish army, said the ATAK aircraft crashed at around 1pm local time (10:00 GMT).

"We do not have any exact evidence and document regarding whether (or not) it was downed due to external intervention", he said.

Eleven Turkish soldiers were killed on Saturday, including two military personnel when a helicopter was downed, in the bloodiest day in Ankara's offensive against a Kurdish militia in northern Syria.

Turkey on January 20 launched Operation Olive Branch to remove Partiya Yekitiya Demokrat/Kurdistan Workers' Party and the Islamic State from Afrin. "We have two martyrs", Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in televised remarks.

However, in a posting on Twitter, Mustefa Bali, spokesman for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces dominated by the YPG, said a helicopter had been hit in the Rajo area of northwest Afrin, near the Turkish border.

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In a statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on the parties involved in the ongoing conflict to move toward a political solution, which he says is the "only way to end the violence and the awful suffering of the Syrian people".

"These things will happen, we are in a war".

Turkey considers the YPG a terror organization and an extension of Kurdish insurgents who have fought for autonomy for more than three decades in Turkey. "We might lose a helicopter, but they'll pay the price for this", he said in Istanbul. Last Saturday, seven Turkish troops died in the worst single-day loss of the operation so far, with five killed in a tank attack.

More than 1,200 people, including security force personnel and civilians, have lost their lives since the PKK - listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and European Union - resumed its decades-old armed campaign in July 2015.

It was not immediately possible to verify this figure.

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