Turkish jets hit IS targets in Syria, al-Bab highway under control: army

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2016 3:54 AM

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish warplanes destroyed 10 Islamic State targets in northern Syria while rebels backed by Turkey seized control of a highway between the key regional towns of al-Bab and Manbij, the Turkish army said on Friday.

The military moves are part of Turkey's almost four-month-old "Euphrates Shield" operation to support the rebels, which aims to push the jihadists and Kurdish militia fighters away from the Syrian border area.

Friday's statement from the Turkish military said Turkish jets had destroyed seven buildings and three control points used by the jihadists in four different parts of the region.

The onslaught followed a Turkish state media report on Thursday that Ankara had sent 300 commandos to northern Syria to reinforce the operation.

The Turkish-backed forces are now besieging al-Bab, the last urban stronghold of Islamic State in the northern Aleppo countryside. Their advance potentially pits the Turks against both Kurdish fighters and Syrian government forces.

The army statement said Free Syrian Army rebels had to a large extent achieved control over the highway between al-Bab and Manbij, a town which was wrested from Islamic State in August by Kurdish-led forces backed by the United States.

Ankara regards the Kurdish YPG, a key component of those forces, as a hostile group with deep ties to Kurdish militants who have fought a three-decade insurgency in Turkey.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said Manbij is a target for the "Euphrates Shield" operation after it seizes al-Bab.

(Reporting by Orhan Coskun; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall, Larry King)