Says Syria border region must be ‘cleansed’ of IS after the suicide bombing on Sunday
Ankara: Turkey said today the Syrian border region must be “completely cleansed” from the Islamic State group, after a weekend suicide bombing in Gaziantep blamed on the jihadists left at least 54 dead.
In a sign of a key battle to come, Syrian rebel fighters have amassed on the Turkish side of the border in preparation for an offensive on the town of Jarablus, IS’s last major transit point on the Syrian side of the border.
“Our border must be completely cleansed from Daesh,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in televised remarks, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
“It is our most natural right to fight at home and abroad against such a terrorist organisation.”
A child suicide bomber, aged “between 12 and 14”, is suspected of having carried out the attack late Saturday in the southeastern city of Gaziantep near the Syrian border on the orders of the IS jihadist group, according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Cavusoglu said Turkey has already taken an “active” role in the fight against IS, allowing coalition forces to use a key air base in the south of the country for strikes on the extremist group.
Quoting security sources, some Turkish media reported earlier that the Gaziantep attack could have been retaliation by IS for an operation carried out by Ankara-backed Syrian rebels against the jihadists in Jarablus, northern Syria.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “hundreds of rebel fighters are inside Turkish territory, preparing to launch an offensive on Jarablus against IS”.
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“There is already daily artillery fire from Turkey on the edges of the town,” said the Britain-based monitoring group’s head, Rami Abdel Rahman.
The Dogan news agency reported that Turkish artillery fired 65 mortar shells at IS targets around Jarablus on Saturday.
A rebel source confirmed that opposition fighters were “preparing for a large offensive against Daesh in Jarablus which will be launched from Turkey”.
“Yesterday we liberated Al-Rai, and tomorrow, Jarablus,” said Ahmad Othman, a commander in the Sultan Murad rebel group.
Al-Rai was also used by IS as a smaller transit point along the border, but was it seized by rebels on Friday after changing hands several times.
Jarablus has been held by IS for more than three years.