Turkey, coalition hit ISIL after rockets kill two in Kilis
DHA photoThe U.S.-led coalition hit Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in northern Syria, located directly across from the southeastern province of Kilis, after receiving coordinates from Turkey on April 25. The air strikes came in response to a series of ISIL attacks on the border province, with a fresh attack April 24 killing two people, raising the total death toll to 17 since Jan. 18.
Coalition jets took off from the İncirlik Air Base in southern Adana province at 1 a.m. on April 25, after Turkey provided intelligence on ISIL coordinates in northern Syria.
The coalition decided to pursue the targets following an evaluation and successfully killed a large number of ISIL militants and destroyed ISIL firing positions, according to security sources.
The airborne operation was launched after ISIL militants repeatedly targeted Kilis – the only place in Turkey were Syrian refugees fleeing the country’s five-year conflict now outnumber local Turks – by firing rockets over the past few weeks.
Armored vehicles were also dispatched to the region, as an additional safety measure, from the Gaziantep 5th Armored Brigade Command. Reports indicate that a large number of armored army vehicles arrived in the Elbeyli district of Kilis early on April 25. The launching of rockets also startled local residents in Kilis, as many fear sending their children to schools and some parents have reportedly filed requests with the Provincial Education Directorate for a suspension of school.
Provincial Director Abdurrahman Sevgili told reporters that the unease was understandable, stressing that their efforts to take all necessary measures to keep some 31,800 Turkish students and 20,000 Syrian children safe.
“We have moved all classrooms to rooms on the northern side of the building because rockets come from the south; we have merged classes,” Sevgili said, adding that rooms on the upper floors had been evacuated and that break times had been shortened. Psychological assistance is also being provided for traumatized students, teachers and administrators, he added.
Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan said that between mid-January and April 24, a total of 45 rockets had hit Kilis, killing at least 16 people. On April 25, a rocket attack left five Syrians dead, including four children.
The president’s office said on April 25 that Turkey had not yet received intelligence to ascertain if the border town was deliberately targeted by ISIL.
“There is a chaotic war on the Syrian side,” presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın told reporters at a press conference. “Some of [the rockets] might be landing [in Turkey] by mistake and some might be fired deliberately.”
On the other hand, Turkey has opened fire on ISIL targets a total of 5,330 times, mostly using artillery fire. Some 370 ISIL militants have been killed as a result, according to reports.
A total of 492 ISIL militants have been killed in the 167 air strikes launched by the coalition conducted since Jan.9.
The attacks on Kilis were on the agenda of the opposition parties Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), with the former claiming that the ISIL attacks had been hidden on purpose.
“All of these attacks are disguised as ‘rocket falls on Kilis’ and presented to the public as such. The ISIL attacks on Kilis are kept hidden on purpose. ISIL’s name is not even mentioned in the attacks. We are facing an attitude that has been going on for months,” said HDP group deputy chairman İdris Baluken in a press briefing in parliament on April 25, as he criticized the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
ISIL is planning attacks on Republican People’s Party (CHP) and HDP organizations, Baluken added.
“There is very strong news that is based on police intelligence reports about ISIL planning attacks on CHP and HDP organizations in 81 provinces. We also have that information,” said Baluken.
Meanwhile, MHP deputy chair Emin Haluk Ayhan called on citizens to be careful about provocations.
“As the MHP, we are calling on the citizens to be careful about provocations. The region is sensitive. The government should determine what it is going to do clearly, should implement it in a determined way and assuage the concerns of Kilis residents as soon as possible,” Ayhan told journalists in a press briefing in parliament on April 25.
In a separate incident in neighboring Gaziantep on the same day, a total of eight ISIL militants were apprehended in the province’s Oğuzeli district, the local governor’s office announced following the second ISIL attempt to infiltrate the district in the last week.
Security forces at the border detained eight foreign ISIL suspects while they were trying to enter the country from Syria, the Gaziantep Governor’s Office said in a statement.
Legal proceedings have been opened against the suspects for “being a member of a terror organization,” it added.
Security forces have caught a total of 13 ISIL suspects over the past four days in Gaziantep and in the Central Anatolian province of Konya.
Six suspected foreign ISIL members were caught in an operation on early April 23 in Konya.
The Konya Governor’s Office said in a statement that the ISIL members had considered possible attacks targeting statesmen visiting the city along with other strategic targets. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was in the city on April 22 at an event to promote Konya as the Islamic world tourism capital.
In addition, seven suspected ISIL members were caught on April 21 in two different districts of Gaziantep.
Five Turkish suspects were caught while they were trying to enter the country illegally from Syria in the Karkamış district in addition to another two foreign members of ISIL in Oğuzeli.
Turkey has recently been on high alert, as the country has been rocked by a series of suicide and car bomb attacks which claimed many lives and wounded hundreds.