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Turkey Says 50,000 Displaced Syrians, Refugees Return To Retaken Areas

An aerial view shows destruction in Al-Bab on March 29, a month after Turkish-backed rebels recaptured the northern Syrian town from Islamic State.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says some 50,000 displaced Syrians and refugees have returned to areas captured by Turkey and its opposition allies in northern Syria.

Cavusoglu's comments on April 1 came three days after Prime Minister Binali Yildirim hailed the successful completion of Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield.

That mission was launched in August by Turkey and its allies to push fighters of the Islamic State (IS) militant group away from the Syrian-Turkish border.

Cavusoglu said security in the areas captured from IS will eventually be handed to local forces. Turkey is also fighting Kurdish militia in the region -- forces it considers to be "terrorists."

Cavusoglu said "people started returning to these places. Our soldiers are still there, and we need to conduct the work there. We need to establish a terror-free zone."

Dozens of Turkish soldiers have been killed since the campaign was launched, most of them around the town of Al-Bab, which was finally captured from IS fighters.

The war in Syria, which began with a government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in March 2011, has killed an estimated 300,000 people and displaced millions more, causing one of the worst refugee crises in Europe since World War II.

Turkey is supporting rebels who are opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Based on reporting by AP and Daily Sabah