ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish jets on Saturday launched bombing raids against Islamic State targets in Syria, the day before Turks are due to vote in a parliamentary election, a senior government official said.
American jets were standing by to assist and all aircraft involved in the operations returned safely, the official told Reuters. Ground forces were not involved.
Turkey vowed to take a more active role in combating Islamic State (IS) in July, as part of a multi-pronged offensive which also saw them ramp up attacks on Kurdish militants.
Since then, the Turkish military has primarily concentrated on hitting its old foe, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), although Turkish airbases have also been used by U.S.-led coalition jets to hit IS targets in northern Syria.
Islamic State militants control swathes of territory along the Turkish border, and the group is linked to a recent suicide bomb attack on a peace rally in Ankara, which killed more than 100 people.
The bombing raids come at a sensitive time for the Turkish government, as it attempts to act decisively after criticism for failing to prevent the Ankara attack, the worst of its type in the country’s history.
At the same time, most Turks hold deep misgivings about any deeper involvement in the Syria conflict, and the opposition has strongly criticised President Tayyip Erdogan’s foreign policy in the run-up to Sunday’s parliamentary polls.
Reporting by Orhan Coskun, writing by Jonny Hogg; Editing by Alison Williams and Digby Lidstone