Syria crisis: Turkish fighter jets strike ISIS targets across border
5,000 police officers carry out raids today against suspected extremists in Istanbul
Turkey has agreed to let the U.S. use the Incirlik air base for military operations in southern Turkey against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) "within a certain framework," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed today.
Erdogan did not elaborate on details of the agreement and the White House declined to confirm it, but noted U.S. President Barack Obama and Erdogan had agreed to "deepen our co-operation" against ISIS in their phone call Wednesday. Confirmation came hours after Turkish warplanes struck ISIS targets Friday across the border in Syria.
The bombings, which came a day after ISIS militants killed a soldier at a Turkish military outpost, is a strong tactical shift for the country, which had long been reluctant to join the U.S.-led coalition against the extremist group.
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A government official said three F-16 jets took off from Diyarbakir air base in southeast Turkey early Friday and used smart bombs — which provide precision-guided munitions — to hit three ISIS targets. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of government rules requiring authorization for comment, said the targets were two command centres and a gathering point for ISIS supporters.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the three Turkish airstrikes were all near the border — ranging from 200 metres to four kilometres inside Syria — and several ISIS fighters were killed. He said one of the strikes hit just north of the Syrian border village of Hawar al-Nahr.
More strikes possible
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the airstrikes had "removed potential threats" to Turkey, and targets were hit with "100 per cent accuracy." He did not rule out further strikes, saying Turkey was determined to stave off all terror threats against the country.
Davutoglu also said Turkish planes did not violate Syrian airspace Friday, but did not rule out incursions in the future. He denied news reports claiming Turkey had informed the Syrian regime about the airstrikes, but said it had contacted NATO allies before the operation.
"This was not a point operation, this is a process," Davutoglu said. "It is not limited to one day or to one region ... The slightest movement threatening Turkey will be retaliated against in the strongest way possible."
Turkish police launched a major operation Friday against terror groups including ISIS, carrying out simultaneous raids in Istanbul and 12 provinces, which led to the detainment of more than 290 people.
The Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency said as many as 5,000 police officers were involved in Friday's sweep against suspected extremists, which was also targeting the PKK Kurdish rebel group and the outlawed far-left group, DHKP-C. Davutoglu said those detained included 37 foreign nationals but did not give details on their home countries.
One DHKP-C suspect, a woman, was killed in a gunfight with police in Istanbul, Anadolu reported.