British jets strike ISIL in northern Syria in coordination with Turkey: Turkish military
ANKARABritish fighter jets under the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) coalition conducted air strikes in northern Syria on Jan. 18, the Turkish army has said, noting that it marked the first coalition air strike in a long time.
“An air attack has been conducted on Daesh terror organization targets, which were determined as a result of target coordination with the coalition in the Bzagah region at around 3:30 p.m. [12:30 p.m. GMT] today [Jan. 18] by the Coalition Air Forces [with the Tornado fighter jets of Britain],” read a Turkish General Staff statement issued on Jan. 18, using DAESH, the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
It said that while the targets were destroyed, the air strikes came as a first in a long time from the anti-ISIL coalition.
The statement said that Russian fighter jets had also conducted air strikes against ISIL militants near al-Bab, in Syria’s northern Aleppo province.
Turkish forces and Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters have been battling to capture al-Bab from ISIL as part of the ongoing Euphrates Shield operation for more than one month and fierce clashes in the region have led to casualties from Turkish troops and FSA members.
Russian jets struck ISIL targets in al-Bab’s south on Jan. 18 after coordination with Turkish officials over targets to destroy, the military statement said.
It said that these air strikes were conducted after delegations from the Russian and the Turkish chiefs of staff signed an agreement last week to define mechanisms regarding flight security and cooperation between the countries during operations against “terrorist targets” in Syria following a meeting in Moscow.
Russian Interfax news agency quoted Russian official Sergey Rudskoy as saying on Jan. 18 that Russian and Turkish warplanes hit ISIL targets in al-Bab on Jan. 18, in what is the first such joint operation featuring both countries’ air forces.
The action came one day after the U.S. military said on Jan. 17 that it carried out air strikes in Syria against ISIL targets of interest to both Washington and Ankara near the town of al-Bab, following Turkey’s criticism of insufficient U.S. support for its ground offensive.
U.S. Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition, stated there were four strikes in recent days against jihadists’ targets that he said were in both countries’ “mutual interest.”
Turkey launched its ongoing Euphrates Shield operation on Aug. 24, 2016, to clear its border with Syria of terror groups which include ISIL and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the fighters from its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it sees as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighting within Turkey.
Turkey has been recently angered by U.S. policy in Syria, particularly Washington’s support for the PYD and YPG.
18 ISIL militants ‘neutralized’ in northern Syria: Military
Meanwhile, in a separate statement on Jan. 19 the Turkish military said 18 ISIL militants were “neutralized” in northern Syria over the last 24 hours as part of the Euphrates Shield operation.
Turkish authorities use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the militants in question were either killed, captured or surrounded.
Turkish Armed Forces also hit 182 ISIL targets, including shelters, defense points, command and control facilities, and vehicles, a Turkish General Staff statement said.
Coalition forces hit three targets on the 149th day of the operation.