ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish warplanes pounded 12 Islamic State targets in the al-Bab region of northern Syria on Wednesday, killing 23 militants, the military said.
The air strikes were launched as Syrian rebels, backed by Turkish troops and firepower, besiege Islamic State controlled al-Bab as part of the three-month-old Euphrates Shield operation to push the jihadists and a Kurdish militia away from Turkey’s border.
Separately, one Turkish soldier was killed and six were wounded, one of them seriously, in a vehicle-borne bomb attack in the area on Wednesday morning, the military said in its statement. Media reports had earlier said two soldiers were killed in the attack.
Military and hospital officials said the wounded soldiers were transported to hospitals in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep.
Wednesday’s air strikes targeted buildings used by Islamic State fighters as well as three tanks and a bomb-laded vehicle, the army said. Nine similar targets were destroyed in air raids the previous evening, it said in an earlier statement.
The advance by largely Turkmen and Arab rebels backed by Turkey towards al-Bab, the last urban stronghold of Islamic State in the northern Aleppo countryside, potentially pits them against both Kurdish fighters and Syrian government forces.
Last month an air strike, which Turkey’s military initially assessed to have been carried out by the Syrian air force, killed three Turkish soldiers in the region. Moscow has said neither Russian nor Syrian armed forces carried out the attack.
Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Humeyra Pamuk and David Dolan