Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara had a duty to defeat ISIS, describing its operation inside Syria as the first step towards this goal after Turkish air strikes killed at least 20 ISIS militants in Syria.
“It is the binding duty in front of our nation to finish off the organization called Daesh (ISIS) in Syria and ensure it is unable to carry out actions inside our country,” Erdogan said in a televised message for Eid al-Adha Islamic holiday.
“The Euphrates Shield operation is the first step towards this,” he added.
Erdogan said Turkey was now “much stronger, determined and more dynamic” than before the July 15 coup bid, which the authorities blame on the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen. He denies the charges.
Turkey has sent dozens of tanks and hundreds of troops into Syria, in an unprecedented operation dubbed Euphrates Shield aimed at booting out both ISIS militants and Kurdish militia from the border area.
The operation, launched on Aug. 24, came after a string of bloody suicide bombings and rocket attacks inside Turkey blamed on ISIS.
Six Turkish soldiers have been killed so far in rocket attacks in Syria blamed on ISIS but Erdogan said that the Euphrates Shield would continue and “not one drop” of blood of Turkey’s forces would be spilt in vain.
Turkish strikes kill 20 ISIS militants
Meanwhile, Turkish air strikes killed 20 ISIS militants in northern Syria on Saturday, broadcaster CNN Turk cited the Turkish military as saying on Sunday.
The strikes targeted three buildings, one vehicle and one motorbike around the Syrian town of Tel el-Hawa, CNN Turk said.
Separately, the head of the military said in message to mark a public holiday that “Operation Euphrates Shield”, a Turkish incursion into Syria against ISIS and Kurdish militia fighters launched two and half weeks ago, would “continue decisively,” according to broadcaster NTV.
Turkey had previously been accused of not doing enough in the fight against ISIS and its Western partners have applauded the operation.
Turkey’s operation is also targeting the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Ankara regards as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged a 32-year insurrection inside Turkey.
This has created strains with Turkey’s NATO ally the United States, which works with the YPG on the ground in the fight against ISIS.
Erdogan said the “PKK has no chance of resistance against the power of our state”, despite an upsurge in violence that has seen hundreds of members of the security forces killed since a ceasefire ruptured in 2015.
“The PKK’s Syrian branch -- the PYD-YPG -- awaits the same fate,” he added.
Erdogan had previously indicated Turkey and the United States have discussed an operation to push ISIS extremists out of their de facto capital of Raqa in Syria but there have been no details on the timing or how this would work.
(With agencies)SHOW MORE