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US launches first Syria airstrike from Turkey

US and Turkey confirmed that today was the first time a US airstrike targeting IS in Syria was launched from a Turkish airbase
US F-15E Strike Eagles taxi down the runway at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina on 16 April 2012 (AFP)

The US on Wednesday carried out its first airstrike on positions in Syria held by IS - with the use of an unmanned drone - from an airbase in southern Turkey, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis has said.

Earlier Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey and the US had “made progress” on the use of Turkey’s Incirlik airbase by American military jets.

Last month Ankara said it would allow US warplanes to launch attacks from the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey, which is just 200 kilometres from IS positions in northern Syria.

Cavusoglu went on to describe the group – which remains in control of large swathes of both Syria and Iraq – as the biggest threat to the region, going on to assert that it had to be dealt with in a “results-oriented” manner.

The Pentagon announced this week that US armed drones had taken off from Incirlik to conduct missions over northern Syria but this was the first time an airstrike had been carried out.

Turkey, a member of the international coalition led by its NATO ally Washington, had so far declined to take robust action against IS but after a deadly bombing in July in a border town blamed on suspected IS fighters, it launched limited strikes against the group in Syria.

According to media reports some 30 US fighter jets are due to arrive at the facility in the coming days in order to take part in the operation.

Cavusoglu indicated after meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry in Malaysia that Turkey would be stepping up its campaign against IS fighters after it gave permission to US forces to conduct armed missions from its Incirlik airbase.

"The US planes have begun arriving and soon we will launch a comprehensive fight against Daesh all together," he said, using a pejorative Arabic acronym for IS, quoted by the official Anatolia news agency.

Ankara is waging a two-pronged bombing campaign against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels as well as IS fighters, following a wave of violence inside Turkey. 

So far the raids have overwhelmingly targeted the Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and southeast Turkey, to the dismay of those who want to see Ankara play a fuller role in the US-led coalition against IS.

Cavusoglu said at the start of the meeting with Kerry that the operation would be helped by moderate Syrian rebels that the US and Turkey are hoping to jointly train. 

"Now we are training and equipping the moderate (Syrian) opposition together with the United States, and we will also start our fight against Daesh very effectively soon," Cavusoglu said.

"Then the ground will be safer for the moderate opposition that are fighting Daesh."

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