Turkey and US-led coalition pound IS group in Syria

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ISTANBUL (AP) – The Turkish military said Monday that artillery shelling and drone attacks by the U.S.-led coalition have struck Islamic State positions in Syria and killed a total of 63 militants.

The state-owned Anadolu Agency said the strikes took out multiple rocket launchers and gun positions.

Four drones deployed from the Incirlik air base, a launching point for U.S.-led coalition forces in southern Turkey, took part in the operation and killed 29 militants.

The airstrikes were informed by intelligence gathered by the Turkish army, the private Dogan news agency reported.

The remaining 34 IS fighters were “neutralized” by rocket fire and artillery shelling from Turkey, according to Anadolu Agency.

The Associated Press was unable to immediately verify the reported casualties.

The offensive started on Sunday when four rockets fired from Syria hit the Turkish border town of Kilis and wounded eight people. On Monday, one person was killed and two others were wounded from two more rocket projectiles that struck the town, Anadolu reported.

Kilis has been hammered by cross-fire border fire since mid-January and the death raised the number of fatalities from rocket fire to 20.

The wider province of Kilis borders territory contested by IS militants, anti-government Syrian rebels and Kurdish factions.

The Turkish army typically responds to fire from Syria in line with its rules of engagement.

In the past year, Turkey has also witnessed suicide bombings linked to IS as well as attacks linked to Kurdish militants.

The latest came Sunday, when a car bomb detonated outside a police station in the southern city of Gaziantep, near Syria.

Interior Minister Efkan Ala said Monday that the Gaziantep attack was carried out by militants linked to the IS group. Up to 50 people were detained for questioning in the city over the attack, he added.

Ala also confirmed the identity of the suicide bomber who blew herself up and wounded 13 people in the city of Bursa last week as 23-year-old Eser Cali. He described Cali as a member of the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK.

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, an off-shoot of the PKK, claimed the Bursa attack in a statement Sunday and said Cali blew herself up before reaching her intended target.

TAK has also claimed responsibility for two other suicide bombings, one in February and the other in March, which killed a total of 66 people in the capital, Ankara.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said after a Cabinet meeting on Monday that Turkish authorities had foiled 85 planned attacks in the country since January through “prior intelligence,” including 49 possible suicide or car bombings. He didn’t provide details.

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