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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Turkey Hits IS in Syria, Allows US to Use Base

by VOA News July 24, 2015

Turkey launched cross-border airstrikes against Islamic State targets Friday and opened its air bases to U.S. warplanes attacking extremist forces in Syria.

The Foreign Ministry in Ankara said U.S.-led coalition forces could operate from all air bases in southern Turkey, near the Syrian border, for operations against Islamic State militants.

The Turkish statement said it would also take part in anti-Islamic State operations inside Syria.

Three of Ankara's F-16 fighter jets took off from Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey early Friday and dropped guided bombs on an Islamic State headquarters and another site facility in Syrian territory, Turkish officials said.

Turkish media reports another mission took off late Friday. The airstrikes were Turkey's first against Islamic State targets in Syria.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters the Turkish pilots hit their targets 'with 100 percent accuracy' and returned safely to their bases. He vowed that Turkey 'will not turn a blind eye' to the threat from Islamic State fighters

'Our message is quite clear: I have given full authority to the Turkish armed forces that whoever causes any threat to the borders of the Republic of Turkey will be responded to accordingly without any further notice,' he added.

​​Earlier Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey has agreed to let American jets use the U.S. Incirlik Air Base for combat missions against the Islamic State group.

Together with the decision to open Turkish air bases to allied warplanes, Erdogan's action was seen as a significant escalation of the battle against the Islamist extremists.

The airstrikes were Turkey's first against Islamic State targets in Syria.

Turkish leaders' decision to relax restrictions they had previously placed on combat missions into Syria from their territory followed consultations by telephone earlier this week between Erdogan and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.

Police raids

In a separate Turkish offensive Friday, officials said 251 people were detained during massive raids at dawn nationwide, targeting both Islamic State and Kurdish militant groups.

More than 5,000 police officers, backed by helicopters, raided at least 100 locations across Istanbul, media reports said.

The U.S. military has operated Incirlik Air Base since it was built in 1951, but in recent months Turkey rejected repeated Washington's repeated requests to approve use of the base for attacks against Islamic State.

The air base is about 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Raqqa, the Islamic State stronghold in Syria, and would sharply cut the length of the 1,900-kilometer (1,200-mile) bombing runs the U.S. has been carrying out from Iraq into Syria.

IS control

Despite thousands of sorties flown against IS forces in Syria and Iraq, the militants still control wide swaths of northern and western Iraq and northern Syria, just across from Turkey.

​​In recent weeks Turkey has seen itself drawn into more cross-border clashes.

On Thursday, Islamic State fighters in Syria and the Turkish military engaged in a skirmish that left at least one Turkish officer dead.

A devastating bombing in Suruc, Turkey, Monday killed 32 people, mostly young activists preparing for an aid mission to Syria. The Turkish government for the first time blamed the Islamic State group for the assault.

Two days later, two Turkish police were shot dead near the Syrian border.

The Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK, claimed the attack, saying it was retaliation for the Turkish government colluding with the Islamic State group.

Turkey denies the charges.

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