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Turkish airstrikes target Islamic State militants in Syria

Published 24/07/2015

Turkish jets took off used smart bombs to hit three Islamic State targets across the Turkish border province of Kilis (AP)
Turkish jets took off used smart bombs to hit three Islamic State targets across the Turkish border province of Kilis (AP)

Turkish warplanes have struck Islamic State (IS) targets across the border in Syria, government officials said, a day after IS militants fired at a Turkish military outpost, killing a soldier.

The bombing is a strong tactical shift for Turkey which had long been reluctant to join the US-led coalition against the extremist group.

Three F-16 jets took off from Diyarbakir airbase in south-east Turkey and used smart bombs to hit three IS targets, a government official said. The targets were two command centres and a gathering point of IS supporters.

Turkish media said the targets were the Syrian village of Havar, near the border, but officials would not confirm the location.

The private Dogan news agency said as many as 35 IS militants were killed in the airstrike that targeted the gathering point.

A government statement said the decision for the operation was taken at a security meeting on Thursday, held after five IS militants fired from Syrian territory at the outpost and prompting Turkish retaliation that killed at least one IS militant.

The official said the Turkish planes did not violate Syrian airspace.

The bombing followed a decision by Turkey this week to allow the US military to use the key Incirlik air base near the Syrian border to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State, senior US officials said.

Turkey has yet to publicly confirm the agreement. Citing operational security, the White House also declined to confirm the agreement, but noted that US president Barack Obama and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan had agreed to "deepen our co-operation" against IS in a phone call on Wednesday.

The agreement follows months of US appeals to Turkey and delicate negotiations over the use of Incirlik and other bases by the US-led coalition - a sensitive topic in Turkey.

American officials said access to the base in southern Turkey would allow the US to move more swiftly and nimbly to attack IS targets.

On Friday, Turkish police launched a major operation against terror groups including IS, carrying out simultaneous raids in Istanbul and 12 provinces and detaining more than 250 people, a government statement said.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said as many as 5,000 police officers were involved in the operation which was also targeting the PKK Kurdish rebel group and the outlawed far-left group, DHKP-C.

The agency said 98 people were detained in Istanbul - 36 of them foreign nationals. It did not given details on their home countries.

One DHKP-C suspect, a woman, was killed in a gunfight with police in Istanbul, Anadolu reported.

Turkey's moves came as the country finds itself drawn further into the conflict by a series of deadly attacks and signs of increased IS activity inside the country.

Earlier in the week, a suicide bombing blamed on IS militants killed 32 people in a town near the Syrian border.

Turkish officials have raised concerns that the bombing was part of a campaign of retaliation for Turkey's recent crackdown on IS operations in the country.

In the last six months, Turkish officials say, more than 500 people suspected of working with IS have been detained.

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