Turkey to ‘act militarily’ against ISIS in coming days – foreign minister
"Daesh [ISIS] threatens our way of life and security...We have plans to act militarily against them in the coming days. You will see. We should all stand together against this danger," Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu said during a conference on the future of the Middle East, held in Erbil in northern Iraq's Kurdish region.
The foreign minister went on to state that Turkey will continue to support Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdish region in its fight against Islamic State and other terror groups.
"We will continue our efforts to eliminate all terrorist organizations. We will act in a responsible manner so that the Kurdish region and Iraq can be successful in the fight against terror. This is a very clear message to Iraq and the Kurdish region for a bright future," he said.
It comes less than one month after two powerful bombs exploded in the Turkish capital, Ankara, killing 102 people. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he believes Islamic State, Kurdish militants and Syrian intelligence could all have played a role in the attack.
In the meantime, Turkish fighter jets have reportedly continued targeting the camps of the PKK Kurdish militant group. The military reported hitting PKK in both Hakkari, near the Iraqi border, and several regions in northern Iraq shortly after President Tayyip Erdogan had pledged to continue his military operation against the PKK until every last insurgent is “liquidated.”
The Ankara bombings prompted the Turkish government to launch a major crackdown on suspected ISIS militants residing within the country's borders.
Shortly after the attack, authorities arrested some 50 suspects in Istanbul who were believed to be heading to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. The Counter-Terrorism Directorate of Istanbul Security Branch said the arrests came after a raid of 17 homes, and were part of a “confidential operation targeting Islamic State group.”
One week later, a gunbattle between Turkish security forces and suspected ISIS militants took place in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir following raids on several homes. Seven militants were killed and 12 others arrested. Two police officers died after booby traps were set off.
Dozens of suspected ISIS militants were detained following similar raids last week, when Turkish officers launched a swoop on alleged hideouts across the country. One day prior, security forces detained 17 alleged foreign jihadists as they attempted to cross into Syria.
Also last week, suspected militants trying to flee into Syria were detained while carrying seven kilograms of explosives. They were believed to have been plotting a suicide attack.
Just days ago, nine alleged members of ISIS were arrested in Turkey on suspicion of preparing a suicide bomb attack on the offices of an unidentified political party in Istanbul.
President Erdogan said last week that Turkey had so far killed 2,000 militants “inside and outside of the country.” He vowed to continue the country's mission of tackling terrorism.
Anti-ISIS op – or war on Kurdish PKK?
The fact that the recent attacks against Kurdish militants came shortly before Ankara’s announcement of plans to “act militarily” against ISIS, has caused experts to doubt Turkey’s real intention.
“I believe that Turkey’s declaration that it intends to launch a military operation against ISIS is a mere cover up for its real intention to wage a war against the Kurds. It’s in on Kurds and against the Kurds and the PKK militants,” geopolitical analyst Jamal Wakim told RT. “Especially that Erdogan is worried now about the prospects Kurdish-American collaboration, after the backing that the Kurds got from Moscow”
One of the Turkish government’s main concerns is the potentially growing influence of Kurds in the region.
“In this case, the Kurds of Turkey, who spread for 40 percent of the Eastern Anatolia, would be in a better position to pressure for getting their own rights within Turkey on one hand, and maybe they can push forward autonomy and even independence,” Wakim said.