Turkey has approved the full use of its air bases by the US-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), according to the foreign ministry, marking a major change in its policy following a suicide bomb attack in Suruc bordering Syria.
The decision comes just hours after Turkish warplanes pounded ISIL positions in Syria on Friday morning.
US defence officials on Thursday said Ankara had agreed to let Washington launch manned air strikes from an air base at Incirlik, close to the Syrian border, something the US has repeatedly lobbied for. Washington had been limited to flying armed drones from Incirlik.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said that it had approved coalition strikes to be launched from its air bases.
“The cabinet of ministers has given approval for the stationing in our country’s bases of manned and unmanned aircraft of the US and other coalition countries … taking part in air operations against Islamic State,” it said, adding that Turkey’s own aircraft would also be deployed.
Erdogan on Friday confirmed the agreement, saying: “They [US warplanes] will use it [the base] the same way within a certain framework.”
The ability to fly manned bombing raids out of Incirlik, a major base used by both US and Turkish forces, against targets in nearby Syria could be a big advantage.
In the first hours of Friday, three F-16 fighter jets bombed three ISIL targets from an airbase in southeastern province of Diyabakir.
“Four guided bombs targeted two headquarters and an assembly point,” Davutoglu’s office said in a statement.
Davutoglu said at a press conference later on Thursday that the operation was not a one-off move and would widen gradually based on the security needs of his country.
“Whoever targets Turkey… should not forget that Turkey is strong and powerful,” said Davutoglu.
Meanwhile, Turkish police raided more than 100 suspected ISIL, Kurdish and leftist armed group locations across the country in overnight operations late on Thursday.
In total, similar operations were carried out in 13 provinces, resulting in 251 detentions, according to the coordination centre of the Turkish Prime Ministry.
Turkey has faced increasing insecurity along its over 900km border with Syria.
Earlier on Thursday, Turkey fired tank shells across the frontier after fire from ISIL fighters killed a Turkish soldier near Kilis, an area where Ankara had recently sent reinforcements.
One Turkish army officer has been killed and two soldiers injured in cross-border gunfire with ISIL fighters inside Syria on the same day.
Turkish media reported that ISIL fighters shot at the Turkish army in Kilis, a Turkish border town. Semi-official Anadolu News Agency’s reporters told Al Jazeera that the Turkish army immediately retaliated by attacking an ISIL base on Syrian territory, killing at least one fighter.