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Turkey to use US rocket system in fight against ISIS

The system is being brought in ‘so we will be able to hit Daesh targets more effectively’

Published: Updated:

Turkey has struck a deal with the United States to deploy American light multiple rocket launchers on its border with Syria to combat ISIS, according to the foreign ministry.

The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) “will be deployed on the Turkish border in May as part of an agreement” with Washginton, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview published Tuesday.

The system is being brought in “so we will be able to hit Daesh targets more effectively,” he told the Haberturk newspaper, using an acronym for ISIS.

Turkey, a member of US-led coalition against ISIS, has increased its strikes in Syria after a series of deadly attacks on its soil blamed on the extremists.

Ankara also allows US jets to use its air base in southern Turkey for air bombardments on the extremist group.

In recent weeks, the Turkish border town of Kilis has come under frequent attack from rockets fired across the border, prompting the army to respond with howitzer fire.

Cavusoglu said HIMARS would allow Turkey to hit ISIS positions within a 90-kilometer (56 mile) range, while Turkish artillery has a more limited range of 40 kilometers.

The aim is to gain control of the so-called Manbij Gap, a backdoor border route favored by ISIS for smuggling extremists into Syria.

Turkey wants to establish a safe zone in the 98 kilometer stretch between Manbij and the border in which to shelter Syrian refugees, the foreign minister said.

Ankara has long pressed for the creation of safe zones in the war-torn country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel this weekend said the zones were “of the utmost immediate importance also in our negotiations for a ceasefire” in Syria.

But Washington is set against the idea, saying it would require a no-fly zone, something that could lead to conflicts with Russian planes flying over Syria.

“As a practical matter, sadly, it is very difficult to see how it would operate short of us essentially being willing to militarily take over a big chunk of that country,” US President Barack Obama said during a visit to Germany at the weekend.