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Turkey bombs ISIS targets in Syria

Turkey had long been reluctant to join the U.S.-led coalition against the extremist group

Published: Updated:

Turkish F-16 air force jets on Friday took off from their base on a new mission to bomb targets controlled by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in Syria, television reports said.

The war planes took off from their base in the southeastern city in Diyarbakir to carry out a second wave of strikes.

The strikes - which began after ISIS claimed responsibility for a bombing that killed 32 in the southern city of Suruc - mark a shift in Ankara's previously hestitant policy towards the jihadists waging war just across Turkey's southern border.

After the sudden surge of violence in the country, the government has also vowed to take action against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) separatist militants who have claimed attacks on the security forces in the last days.

NTV said that Turkish war planes had also set off on a separate but simultaneous mission to bomb PKK military camps at their base in Kurdish-ruled northern Iraq.

Citing an official statement, it said that a three-storey building used as a meeting place for ISIS jihadists in the El Tabiye area was hit 14 kilometers inside Syrian territory from the Turkish border.

A headquarters used by ISIS jihadists was hit in the El Zahiriye district 11.5 kilometers inside the border. A similar building was struck in the Burgi region, 4 kilometers inside the border, it added.

It said a Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) guidance system was used to help the bombs to find their targets.

Turkish warplanes earlier on Friday bombed three targets controlled by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadists up to 14 kilometers inside Syrian territory, the official Anatolia news agency reported.

Demolition

Citing an official statement, it said that a three-storey building used as a meeting place for ISIS jihadists in the El Tabiye area was hit 14 kilometers inside Syrian territory from the Turkish border.

A headquarters used by ISIS jihadists was hit in the El Zahiriye district 11.5 kilometers inside the border. A similar building was struck in the Burgi region, 4 kilometers inside the border, it added.

It said a Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) guidance system was used to help the bombs to find their targets.

The operations came after the first major cross-border clashes between Turkey and ISIS Thursday left one Turkish soldier and one militant dead, thrusting Turkey into open conflict with the Islamists.

Earlier in the day, TRT television said four military jets took off from Diyarbakir air base in southeast Turkey and used missiles to hit at ISIS targets in the Syrian village of Havar. The village is across the border from the Turkish province of Kilis. TRT said the planes did not violate Syrian airspace.

Private NTV television said at least three loud explosions could be heard from Kilis.

Meanwhile, a government official told the Associated Press that three F-16 jets took off from Diyarbakir airbase in southeast Turkey early Friday and used smart bombs to hit three ISIS targets across the Turkish border province of Kilis. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of government rules requiring prior authorization for comment, said the targets were two command centers and a gathering point of ISIS supporters.

Also read: Turkish police raid suspected ISIS, PKK militants in Istanbul

On Thursday, five ISIS militants fired from Syrian territory at a Turkish military outpost, killing one soldier and prompting Turkish retaliation that killed at least one ISIS militant.

The operation also comes a day after U.S. officials said Turkey had agreed to allow the U.S. access to a key Turkish air base for use against the extremist group.

Earlier in the week, a suicide bombing blamed on ISIS militants killed 32 people in southeastern Turkey, 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 ISIS operations in the country. In the last six months, Turkish officials say, more than 500 people suspected of working with ISIS have been detained.

Hurriyet newspaper said the Turkish F-16s struck three targets close to the Turkish border, including two locations that the extremist group reportedly used as headquarters. The newspaper said the aerial operation was in retaliation for the ISIS attack a day earlier and was named “Operation Yalcin” in honor of the non-commissioned officer who was killed in that attack.

U.S. to use Turkey base

The news comes after Turkey has agreed to let the United States launch airstrikes against ISIS from its strategic Incirlik Air Base.

That's according to two Obama administration officials who weren't authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity.

The U.S. has been seeking permission for months for the U.S.-led coalition to use Incirlik as a launching pad. Turkey had been resistant to the idea amid domestic opposition.

The officials say President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the plan during a phone call Wednesday.

The White House is declining to confirm the Incirlik agreement but says Obama and Erdogan discussed deepening cooperation in the fight against ISIS.