Turkey claims gains against ISIS in northern Syria

The Turkish army said it had cleared ISIS militias out of three villages west of Jarabulus

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Turkey said Thursday it had made gains against ISIS militias on the ninth day of an offensive in neighbouring Syria to clear the border area of ISIS fighters and a Kurdish militia.

The Turkish army said it had cleared “terrorist elements” out of three villages west of Jarabulus -- a border town taken from ISIS militants by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels last week.

The villages -- Zavgar, Tal al-Agbar and Kiliyeh -- lie in territory where Turkish-backed forces have been fighting ISIS.

The military said it had carried out artillery strikes on Zavgar and Kiliyeh.

Turkey says it has cleared dozens of villages of “terrorists” since the start of its unprecedented Syria operation on August 24.

After taking Jarabulus without much resistance on the first day of the offensive, Turkey carried out strikes against a Kurdish militia that Ankara regards as a terror group.

A Turkish soldier was killed last week inside Syria when his tank was hit by a rocket fired by the YPG. Turkey responded with bombardments it said killed two dozen “terrorists”.

The strikes on the Kurdish People’s Protection Units militia (YPG) caused alarm in Washington, which regards the group as an ally in the fight against ISIS.

Turkey on Wednesday denied a US claim it had agreed a truce with the YPG but the Turkish-backed fighters confirmed there was at least a lull in the fighting.

While pressing its Syria offensive, Turkey has also been reinforcing its defenses to prevent cross-border attacks.

NTV television said Turkey was building a wall between Jarabulus and Karkamis on the Turkish side of the border.

Jarabulus residents who fled the town when it was taken over by ISIS in 2013, have meanwhile have begun to return, television images showed.

Turkish forces have also been clearing the area of mines planted by the militias.

Controlled explosions on Thursday sent huge clouds of dust and smoke into the sky, an AFP photographer said, adding that artillery fire could also be heard on the other side of the border.

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