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Wednesday, Oct 1, 2014

World

Turkey vows to fight Islamic State

Reuters | Wednesday, Oct 1, 2014

A Turkish soldier stands guard as Syrian Kurdish refugees wait behind the border fences to cross into Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province September 27, 2014.

MURSITPINAR Turkey/BEIRUT - Turkey signalled it may send troops into Syria or Iraq and let allies use Turkish bases to fight Islamic State, as coalition jets launched air strikes on Wednesday on insurgents besieging a town on its southern border with Syria.

The government sent a proposal to parliament late on Tuesday which would broaden existing powers and allow Ankara to order military action to "defeat attacks directed towards our country from all terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria".

The proposal would also mean Turkey, until now reluctant to take a frontline role against Islamic State, could allow foreign forces to use its territory for cross-border incursions.

But President Tayyip Erdogan said the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remained a Turkish priority and stressed Ankara's fears that US-led air strikes without a broader political strategy would only prolong the instability.

Turkey accuses Assad of stoking the growth of Islamic State through sectarian policies.

"We will fight effectively against both (Islamic State) and all other terrorist organisations within the region; this will always be our priority," he told the opening of parliament, but added: "Tons of bombs dropped from the air will only delay the threat and danger.

"Turkey is not a country in pursuit of temporary solutions nor will Turkey allow others to take advantage of it."

The Islamic State advance to within sight of the Turkish army on the border has piled pressure on the NATO member to play a greater role in the US-led military coalition carrying out air strikes against the insurgents in Syria and Iraq.

The militants are encroaching on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the Ottoman Empire's founder, which lies in northern Syria but which Ankara considers sovereign territory. It has made clear it will defend the mausoleum.

A column of black smoke rose from the southeastern side of Kobani, a predominantly Kurdish border town under siege by Islamic State for more than two weeks, as jets roared overhead, a Reuters correspondent on the Turkish side said.

"(They) hit a village that is four to five kilometres (two to three miles) southeast of Kobani and we heard they destroyed one (Islamic State) tank," Parwer Mohammed Ali, a translator with the Kurdish PYD group, told Reuters by telephone from Kobani, known as Ain al-Arab in Arabic.

The United States has been carrying out strikes in Iraq against the militant group since July and in Syria since last week with the help of Arab allies. Britain and France have also struck Islamic State targets in Iraq.

Using mostly nighttime strikes, it aims to damage and destroy the bases and forces of the al Qaeda offshoot which has captured large areas of both countries. Turkey, which hosts a US air base at its southern town of Incirlik, has so far not been militarily involved.

Britain said on Wednesday that it had conducted air strikes overnight on Islamic State fighters west of Baghdad, attacking an armed pick-up truck and a transport vehicle. French President Francois Hollande meanwhile said France would boost its military commitment to the fight against the militants.

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