China / World

US uses Turkish air base to strike IS targets in Syria

By Agence France-Presse in Ankara (China Daily) Updated: 2015-08-07 07:53

Ankara now ready for a 'comprehensive' fight against jihadists, foreign minister says

The United States on Wednesday launched its first airstrike from Turkey on an Islamic State target in Syria, as Ankara vowed it was ready to step up its own fight against jihadists.

"A US drone today carried out one airstrike in Syria near Raqa," a Turkish official said, referring to the town in northern Syria that the IS group sees as its capital.

The drone had taken off from Turkey's southern Incirlik air base, which Ankara has now opened to the US military for armed attacks on IS targets in Syria just 200 kilometers away, the source added.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier announced that Turkey was ready to begin a "comprehensive" fight against IS jihadists in Syria alongside the US, after months of staying on the sidelines of the US-led coalition.

The Pentagon announced this week that US armed drones had taken off from Incirlik to conduct missions over northern Syria, but this was the first time an airstrike had been carried out.

Turkey, a member of the international coalition led by its NATO ally Washington, had declined to take robust action against jihadists. However, after a deadly bombing in July in a border town was blamed on suspected IS jihadists, it launched limited strikes against the group in Syria.

According to media reports, some 30 US fighter jets are due to arrive at the facility in the coming days in order to take part in the operation.

Turkey, long criticized for failing to stop the flow of jihadists in both directions across its border with Syria, has so far concentrated an almost two-week "anti-terror" campaign on the bombing of Kurdish militants.

But Cavusoglu indicated after meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry in Malaysia that Turkey would be stepping up its campaign against IS jihadists.

"The US planes have begun arriving and soon we will launch a comprehensive fight against Daesh all together," he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS in a quote to the official Anatolia news agency.

Ankara is waging a two-pronged bombing campaign against Kurdistan Workers' Party rebels, also known as PKK, as well as IS militants, following a wave of violence inside Turkey.

So far the raids have overwhelmingly targeted the Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and southeast Turkey, and opponents have criticized Ankara for using the anti-IS offensive as a cover to bomb Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

"Turkey does not need an excuse to protect its national security," the Turkish official said, saying that Ankara sees both IS and the PKK as a threat. "In Iraq, we can take unilateral action, but in the fight against Daesh we are a member of an international coalition," the official said.

Washington has long been pushing its historic ally Turkey to step up the fight against IS, something Ankara had until recently been reluctant to do.

Cavusoglu said at the start of a meeting with Kerry that the anti-IS operation would be helped by moderate Syrian rebels.

"Now we are training and equipping the moderate (Syrian) opposition together with the United States, and we will also start our fight against Daesh very effectively soon," Cavusoglu said.

"Then the ground will be safer for the moderate opposition that are fighting Daesh."


Hot Topics