ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish jets took part in U.S.-led coalition air strikes against Islamic State in Syria for the first time on Friday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.
Turkey last month agreed to open its strategically important air bases to the coalition, but has been reluctant to play a leading role in the fight against Islamic State, fearing a backlash.
Friday’s operation follows a technical agreement with the United States on Aug. 24 about Turkey’s role in the campaign against the Sunni Islamists who control large areas of Syria and Iraq.
“Our jets started last night to carry out air operations with coalition forces against IS targets in Syria which pose a threat to our security too,” the Turkish statement released on Saturday said.
On July 24, Turkish warplanes attacked Islamic State targets in Syria, but not as part of the coalition operation.
Commenting on the latest strikes, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook released a statement commending Turkey for its participation in coalition efforts to “degrade and ultimately defeat” Islamic State.
Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Additional reporting by Mohammad Zargham in Washington; writing by Dasha Afanasieva; editing by Andrew Roche/Ruth Pitchford