Turkey arrests hundreds of suspected terrorists, Prime Minister says
TURKEY — Turkey arrested nearly 600 terror suspects as warplanes intensified attacks against ISIS and other militant targets in a daylong operation, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Saturday.
The strikes also targeted the Kurdistan Worker’s Party or PKK, and came days after ISIS militants killed a Turkish soldier in border clashes.
The same week, a suicide blast killed more than 30 people in Suruc, a town that borders Syria. Turkish authorities blamed it on ISIS.
“We will not stay silent in the face of those who kill our police officers in their sleep,” Davutoglu said, referring to PKK’s assassination of two Turkish police officers Wednesday.
Turkish warplanes and artillery bombed ISIS in northern Syria and PKK in northern Iraq on Friday, the first time Turkey has attacked ISIS and PKK simultaneously.
Turkey believes that PKK is exploiting ISIS efforts. PKK has been fighting for independence and autonomy since 1984 and is feared to be making gains.
The airstrikes, which coincided with Turkish ground troops, targeted PKK militants in shelters, depots and caves around mountainous areas near the Turkish / Iraqi border.
The government said the hits on terror groups in Iraq were effective.
Turkey initially decided to attack ISIS during a national security meeting Thursday headed by Davutoglu.
The decision followed the firefight the same day in which at least five ISIS militants in northern Syria approached the border and fired on a Turkish border unit, killing one soldier and wounding two others, according to the Turkish military.
Turkey initially responded to the clash by firing artillery into Syria.
The Turkish military has targeted positions in Syria before but only as a response to incoming fire from the latter’s side of the border.
Three F-16s from an air base in southeastern Turkey conducted the airstrikes Friday, authorities said.
Soon after, news emerged of a deal to increase U.S. and coalition access to Turkish air bases, including Incirlik near the Syrian border.
The deal provides the U.S. military with crucial access from Turkey into Syria and Iraq, which it has long wanted for the campaign against ISIS.
The Turkish airstrikes Friday hit two ISIS bases and a gathering point, the Prime Minister’s office said.
The targets were chosen based on intelligence reports suggesting a buildup of weapons and explosives in the area, a Turkish official told CNN on condition of anonymity.
The fighter jets have completed their mission, but the Turkish official didn’t rule out the possibility of further airstrikes.
Turkey’s airstrikes come after the attack in Suruc, which was one of the deadliest terror attacks to hit the country in years.
The blast struck a gathering of mostly Kurdish activists calling for more help to rebuild Kobani, the Syrian city that was the scene of intense fighting last fall between ISIS and predominantly Kurdish forces.
Early indications pointed to involvement by ISIS in the Suruc bombing, Davutoglu said, though an investigation hadn’t been completed.
The terrorism suspects arrested come from all over the country, Davutoglu said Friday.