The Turkish F-16 warplanes dropped four guided bombs on three IS targets in neighbouring Syria
The Turkish F-16 warplanes dropped four guided bombs on three IS targets in neighbouring Syria © - AFP/File
The Turkish F-16 warplanes dropped four guided bombs on three IS targets in neighbouring Syria
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AFP
Last updated: January 1, 1970

Turkey bombs IS positions in Syria: Turkish PM

Turkey on Friday vowed to press on with operations against Islamic State (IS) in Syria and other militant groups, after its war planes bombed the jihadists' positions for the first time.

Following the pre-dawn air raids on the IS targets in Syria, Turkish police arrested almost 300 suspected members of IS and pro-Kurdish militant groups nationwide, in one of Turkey's biggest recent crackdowns on extremists.

The raids marked a major shift in policy towards IS by key NATO member Turkey, which has faced severe criticism from its Western allies for not doing enough to combat the jihadists.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the bombing operation had "100 percent" achieved its goals and had "successfully eliminated the targets" targeted by three Turkish F-16s.

The air raids were ordered in the wake of a suicide bombing blamed on IS that killed 32 activists on the Syrian border on Monday and cross-border clashes Thursday that claimed the life of a Turkish soldier.

The Turkish war planes dropped their charges while in Turkish airspace and did not enter Syrian airspace, the CNN-Turk television channel reported.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said nine IS fighters were killed in the attacks and 12 wounded.

The bombing raid was the first by the Turkish air force on IS since the extremists began their advance across Iraq and Syria in 2013, seizing control of swathes of territory right up to the Turkish border.

"Turkey will show the strongest reaction to the slightest movement that threatens it," Davutoglu said.

"The operation against IS reached its target and will not stop," he added.

A Turkish official, who asked not to be named, said Ankara had received information in recent weeks that IS had been storing weapons in the area and the air strikes were "pre-emptive".

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in televised comments that the security situation had "got out of control" in the last days and Turkey had to act differently now.

"It wasn't a one-night operation and it will continue with determination," Erdogan said.

- Nearly 300 suspects held -

An AFP correspondent in the Turkish village of Beylerbeyi on the Syria border, near the scene of Thursday's clashes between the military and IS militants, described the situation there as peaceful.

"I head the planes tonight... I support the Turkish army so I am staying," said village chief Ahmet Solak.

The fighting erupted after the killing of 32 people in a suicide bombing Monday in the Turkish town of Suruc on the Syrian border carried out by a 20-year old Turkish man linked to IS.

The attack, which targeted Turkish activists preparing an aid mission in Syria, sparked an upsurge in violence in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast, where many accuse Turkish authorities of collaborating with IS.

In an apparent bid to crack down on all sources of violence, Turkish police on Friday swooped on suspected members of IS group and the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

A total of 297 people including 37 foreigners were detained, Davutoglu said, adding that the raids took place in 16 provinces across Turkey.

As well as IS and the PKK, the operation targeted suspected members of the PKK's youth wing, The Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), and the Marxist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party Front (DHKP-C).

Among those arrested in Istanbul was a senior local IS figure, Halis Bayancuk, who has the nom-de-guerre of Ebu Hanzala, the official Anatolia news agency said.

A female member of the DHKP-C was killed in Istanbul in clashes with police during the raids, Turkish media said. The Hurriyet daily reported she had been readying a suicide bombing.

Two police were shot dead in southeast Turkey close to the Syrian border on Wednesday, in an attack claimed by the PKK's military wing which said it wanted to avenge the Suruc bombing.

On Thursday, another policeman was killed in the majority Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. He was laid to rest Friday.

- 'Deal on air base' -

Turkey has been accused of colluding with IS extremists in the hope they might further Ankara's aim of toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Ankara has always vehemently denied the claims but the NATO member has dodged playing a full role in the US-led coalition assisting Kurds fighting IS militants.

Now, however, Ankara has finally given the green light to US forces for the use of its Incirlik base for air strikes against IS in Syria and Iraq, American officials said Thursday.

"A decision has been taken for Turkey's own security," Davutoglu added, declining to give details on the agreement.

Hurriyet said the agreement provided for the establishment of a 90-kilometre (56 mile) no-fly zone between the Syrian towns of Marea and Jarabulus to the east.

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