Turkish warplanes struck Islamic State targets across the border in Syria yesterday, government officials said, a day after IS militants fired at a Turkish military outpost, killing a soldier.
The bombing is a strong tactical shift for Turkey, which had long been reluctant to join the US-led coalition against the extremist group.
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 it.
“This was not a point operation, this is a process,” Mr 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 yesterday launched a major operation against terror groups including IS, carrying out simultaneous raids in Istanbul and 12 provinces and detaining more than 290 people.
A government official said three F-16 jets took off from Diyarbakir air base in southeast Turkey yesterday and used smart bombs to hit three IS targets. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of government rules requiring authorisation for comment, said the targets were two command centres and a gathering point of IS supporters.
Turkish media said the targets were the Syrian village of Hawar al-Naht, near the border, but officials would not confirm the location.
The private Dogan news agency said as many as 35 IS militants were killed in the airstrike on the gathering point. The agency did not cite a source for the report and there was no official confirmation.
A government statement said the airstrikes were approved at a meeting on Thursday, held after five IS militants fired from Syrian territory at the outpost and prompting Turkish retaliation that killed at least one IS militant.
Mr Davutoglu said Turkish planes did not violate Syrian airspace yesterday, but he did not rule out incursions in the future.
He denied news reports claiming that Turkey had informed the Syrian regime about the airstrikes, but said it had contacted NATO allies before the operation.
The bombing followed a decision by Turkey this week to allow the US military to use the Incirlik air base near the Syrian border to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State group, senior US officials said.
Turkey has yet to publicly confirm the agreement, which US officials discussed on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorised to comment publicly.
Citing operational security, the White House declined to confirm the agreement, but noted that President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had agreed to “deepen our cooperation” against IS in their phone call on Wednesday.