Turkish Jets Strike ISIS Targets in Syria, Kurds in Iraq

PKK Kurdish militants says 2013 truce with Turkey has no meaning in wake of strike.

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Turkish soldiers patrol near the border with Syria, July 24, 2015.
Turkish soldiers patrol near the border with Syria, July 24, 2015.Credit: AP
The Associated Press

Turkish jets flying from a base in the country's southeast struck Islamic State targets across the border in Syria for the second straight night, the government said Saturday. The fighter jets also hit camps belonging to Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

Turkey's security operations will continue for as long as it faces a threat, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Saturday. 

"These operations are not 'one-point operations' and will continue as long as there is a threat against Turkey," Davutoglu said at a news conference in Ankara, before heading to Istanbul, where he is due to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the head of the army. 

The overnight attack was the first time Turkish jets have struck Kurds in northern Iraq since a peace deal was announced in 2013 between Ankara and the rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The group has been fighting Turkey for autonomy since 1984 and is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara and its allies.

The PKK said on Saturday its truce with Ankara had lost all meaning after the overnight attack.

"The truce has no meaning anymore after these intense air strikes by the occupant Turkish army," the PKK said in a statement on its website. 

Erdogan opened peace talks with the Kurds in 2012, but they have since stalled and are beset by suspicion on both sides. 

The jets hit PKK shelters, bunkers, caves, storages facilities and other "logistical points," the statement said. Areas targeted included the Qandil mountains, where the PKK's command is based. The statement did not specify IS targets that were struck in Syria but described the airstrikes as being "effective."

Turkey's military also shelled ISIS and PKK positions from across the Turkish border, the government said.

Tensions have flared with Kurds in recent days after an ISIS suicide bombing in the southeastern Turkish city of Suruc on Monday killed 32 people. Kurdish groups blame the Turkish government for not combatting IS.

On Wednesday, the PKK claimed responsibility for the killing of two Turkish policemen near the Kurdish majority city of Sanliurfa, near the Syrian border.

In other attacks, seven police officers were wounded after suspected PKK militants hurled a small bomb at a police station in Bismil town, near the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, the Dogan news agency reported Friday. Assailants also hurled a small bomb at officers inside a police vehicle in the town of Semdinli, near the border with Iraq, the agency said.

Syria 'safe zone'

Turkey started attacking ISIS positions after the suicide bombing and an ISIS ambush that killed a Turkish soldier.

Turkey's foreign minister said on Saturday that swathes of northern Syria cleared of Islamic State militants will become a "safe zone." 

"When areas in northern Syria are cleared of the (Islamic State) threat, the safe zones will be formed naturally," Mevlut Cavusoglu told a news conference. 

"We have always defended safe zones and no-fly zones in Syria. People who have been displaced can be placed in those safe zones."

On Friday, three F-16 jets struck ISIS targets that included two command centers and a gathering point near the Turkish border in Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nine ISIS militants were killed in the raids.

Turkey announced Friday that it was allowing its air bases to be used by the U.S.-led coalition forces for operations against ISIS extremists.

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