Missing Turkish soldier 'seen in ISIL hospital' in Syria as clashes rage in border town
Uğur Ergan - ANKARAA Turkish soldier who went missing after a border clash with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) affiliated smugglers has visited an ISIL-controlled hospital in Syria, security sources told daily Hürriyet, citing an intelligence report.
One soldier was killed and another one was injured after gunfire from ISIL-held territory in Syria while their unit was patrolling the border in the southeastern Turkish province of Kilis on Sept. 1.
The Turkish Armed Forces declared another soldier, identified as Sefer T., as missing in action (MIA) after the clash.
According to security forces in Ankara who spoke to daily Hürriyet on Sept. 5 citing intelligence reports, Sefer T. was wounded from his foot during the clash. The soldier was taken by militants to an ISIL-controlled hospital near the Syrian city of Aleppo, the source said.
Turkish authorities also received reports suggesting that ISIL considered to transfer the soldier to Mosul in Iraq, although this claim could not be verified.
Officials stressed that efforts have been continuing to release the Turkish soldier, while ruling out any negotiations with ISIL involving an exchange.
A number of ISIL-linked social media accounts have been suggesting that the group could only release the Turkish hostage when Ankara agreed to leave the anti-ISIL coalition.
Last year the jihadists seized 46 Turkish citizens in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The hostages were released unharmed after more than three months, but fears for their fate were seen as a key reason for Ankara's reticence to engage in anti-ISIL operations.
Turkey has a 900-km (558-mile)-long border with Syria and has borne the brunt of the refugee crisis sparked by the Syrian civil war, hosting around 2 million people who have fled the fighting.
Diplomats say Ankara's decision to launch attacks against ISIL has increased the risk of reprisals.
47 dead as rebels battle ISIL in key Syrian town near Turkey
Meanwhile, a battle between ISIL and rebels for control of an opposition stronghold in northern Syria has killed at least 47 fighters, a monitor said Sept. 5.
Twenty Islamist and other rebel fighters were killed in the clashes in Aleppo province throughout Sept. 4, along with 27 ISIL militants, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The fighting centred on the town of Marea, a key rebel bastion that ISIL has been trying to capture for months.
The Observatory said fighting was ongoing around the town, which rebel forces still control, as well in villages in the surrounding area.
Marea is one of the most significant rebel-held towns in northern Aleppo and lies on a key supply route running to the Turkish border.
ISIL has targeted the town for months, seeking to expand westwards from territory it already holds in Aleppo province.
Last week, ISIL advanced in the area, seizing five villages from rebel forces around Marea after allegations it had used a chemical agent, possibly mustard gas, in its attacks.
ISIL advances came despite an agreement between Turkey and the United States to work on the establishment of an ISIL-free zone in northern Aleppo.
In recent days, the US-led air campaign fighting ISIL in Syria has carried out strikes against the group near Marea, according to the Pentagon.
More than 240,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with peaceful anti-government protests.
It has evolved into a complex multi-front war, with regime and rebel forces as well as Kurds and jihadists involved in the fighting.