Turkish commandos to bolster anti-IS force in Syria

Turkish commandos to bolster anti-IS force in Syria
Around 300 Turkish commandos are on their way to Syria to aid rebel forces looking to take al-Bab from the Islamic State group militants.
2 min read
09 December, 2016
The Turkish marines are expected to join Syrian rebels in al-Bab [AFP]

Around 300 Turkish commandos from a base in western Turkish are joining the Ankara-led anti-Islamic State group mission in Syria, Anadolu news agency reported.

Ankara launched an operation dubbed Euphrates Shield to back up Syrian rebels seeking to oust IS from the border zone taking Jarabulus, al-Rai and Dabiq during its early weeks.

Syrian fighters and Turkish troops have found far greater resistance in the fight for al-Bab - 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the Turkish border - where IS are regrouped after fleeing an earlier offensive.

Nineteen Turkish soldiers have lost their lives in the Syria campaign so far, with the government wary of any sign it could become a focus of public concern.

The army has already since summer 2015 been waging an offensive against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants in the southeast that has claimed the lives of hundreds of members of the security forces.

Most of the attacks in the Syria campaign have been blamed on the IS extemists.

But four Turkish soldiers were killed last month by an air strike the Turkish army blamed on the Syrian regime.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week neither Moscow nor its ally Damascus were behind the deadly strike.

The Turkish army also said it lost contact with two Turkish soldiers in Syria, and an IS-affiliated news agency claimed they were taken hostage by its fighters.

As well as seeking to root out IS, Turkey also wants to expel a Syrian Kurdish militia from its frontier and form a safe zone to shelter some of the 2.7 million Syrian refugees who sought safety in the country.

Hundreds of Turkish troops, tanks and artillery are involved in the offensive but Ankara has not given precise numbers over the size of the contingent.