ANKARA (Reuters) - A Turkish soldier died and another was missing on Tuesday following cross-border fire from Islamic State-held territory in neighbouring Syria, local officials said.
They told Reuters that a third soldier was lightly wounded in the incident in the southeastern province of Kilis, abutting territory controlled by the militants for months.
“One Turkish soldier is missing, and we’re trying to find out where he is,” an official told Reuters. The governor of Kilis, Suleyman Tapsiz, told journalists outside Kilis hospital that one soldier had died and another was unaccounted for.
Turkey has been a reluctant partner in the fight against Islamic State, but in July stepped up its involvement, launching air strikes and opening its air bases to the U.S.-led coalition.
The missing serviceman raised the spectre of another possible hostage scenario involving Turkish citizens. Last year the ultra-radical Sunni Muslim militants seized 46 Turkish citizens in the Iraqi city of Mosul.
The hostages were released unharmed after more than three months, but fears for their fate were seen as a key reason for Ankara’s reticence to engage in anti-Islamic State operations.
Turkey has a 900-km(558-mile)-long border with Syria and has borne the brunt of the refugee crisis sparked by the Syrian civil war, hosting around 2 million people who have fled the fighting.
Diplomats say Ankara’s decision to launch attacks against Islamic State has increased the risk of reprisals.
Turkey’s security headache has further worsened since the July collapse of a ceasefire with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), sparking a wave of tit-for-tat attacks across eastern Turkey that have killed hundreds of people.
Reporting by Orhan Coskun and Yesim Dikmen; Writing by Jonny Hogg; Editing by Mark Heinrich