Fight against Isis: Turkish F-16 jets bomb targets in Syria for the first time

Turkey has stepped up its involvement in the fight against Isis

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Turkey has adopted a more aggressive stance in the fight against Isis, by bombing so-called Islamic State targets in Syria for the first time.

Casting aside reluctance to take frontline role in the US-led coalition against the extremist group, the Turkish government sent three F-16 fighter jets from from the south eastern city of Diyarbakir early on Friday morning to target three locations across the Turkish border province of Kilis, according to a government official.

The jets targeted two command centres and a meeting point for Isis supporters, the official said, adding that the jets did not cross the Syrian border.

In a separate operation, some 5,000 police officers supported by helicopters and special forces staged a series of overnight raids on over 100 suspected Isis and Kurdish militant locations in the capital of Istanbul, according to CNN Turk and NTV.

The Prime Minister's Office said on Thursday that Turkey will take any necessary measures to protect public order and national security following attacks by Islamic State and Kurdish militants, following a spate of violence this week.

On Monday, a suspected Isis suicide bombing killed 32 people, many of them Kurds, in a town on the Syrian border. Days later, Isis militants fired at a Turkish military outpost from Syria. One soldier and one Isis militant died in the clashes.

The bombings on Friday came after Turkey agreed to allow the US military to use the Incirlik air base near the border with Syria to launch airstrikes against Isis’ self-declared caliphate.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Barack Obama came to an agreement on Wednesday, after months of negotiations over the use of Turkish air bases.

US officials have argued that access to the base in southern Turkey would enable the coalition to attack Isis more affectively and strategically.

 

However, Turkey – a member of the US-led coalition - has been reluctant to enter the conflict, amid fears it could spill across the border and in turn further inflame the volatile Kurdish minority.

The government has previously argued that only the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - not just air strikes on the radical Islamists - can bring peace.

Dr Natalie Martin, a lecturer in politics and international relations at Nottingham Trent University, told The Independent that the situation in Turkey is "increasingly unpredictable following the bombing at Suruc."

She went on to outline that the Turkish government's policy on Isis is "inextricably bound up with the Kurdish issue."

"Many people in Turkey mistrust AKP [the ruling party] motives in bombing IS [Isis] targets and do not believe they are sincere in their clampdown on jihadists within Turkey.

"Instead they believe the real motive is to create instability in order to discredit the Kurdish opposition and rally support in the event of another general election which may happen soon if a working coalition is not formed," she said.

Additional reporting by Reuters and AP