Turkey's military launched attacks on the Islamic State group while its artillery pounded Kurdish YPG militants in different locations on the border with Syria just hours after Turkey’s foreign minister vowed to “completely cleanse” the area of Islamic extremists.
"Daesh should be completely cleansed from our borders and we are ready to do what it takes for that," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a news conference in Ankara, using an Arabic name for the group.
Turkey's military fired on Syrian Kurdish targets 20 times with artillery at Manbij in northern Syria, an unnamed Turkish official told Reuters, adding that the military was continuing to hit Islamic State group targets in the Syrian border town of Jarablus.
Following the latest attacks and the comments by the foreign minister, #TurkeyHitsISIS trended worldwide on Twitter as Turkish nationalists expressed support for the attacks on both the Islamic State group and the Kurdish militia.
Some expressed the sentiment that the current Turkish government led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan would restore Ottoman influence in the region.
The aim of the strikes, according to one Turkish official, "is to open a corridor for moderate rebels." Manbij city was freed from the Islamic State group a few weeks ago by a joint local force of the Kurdish YPG group and Arab groups, known as Syria Democratic Forces and supported by the U.S. air force.
Ankara sees the Kurdish YPG group as an extension of its own Kurdish insurgency by the local Kurdistan’s Workers’ Party, or PKK.
The attacks come after a suicide bomber suspected of links to the Islamic State group killed 54 people, including 22 children, at a Kurdish wedding on Saturday.
The attack in the southeastern city of Gaziantep is the deadliest in Turkey this year. Erdogan said Sunday it was carried out by a suicide bomber aged between 12 and 14, adding that initial evidence pointed to the Islamic State group.
However, speaking to reporters in Ankara on Monday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said it was too early to verify the organization responsible or whether the attack was carried out by a child.
A senior security official told Reuters the device used was the same type as those employed in the July 2015 suicide attack in the border town of Suruc and the Oct. 2015 suicide bombing of a rally of pro-Kurdish activists in Ankara.
Both of those attacks were blamed on Islamic State group, which has targeted Kurdish gatherings in an apparent effort to further inflame ethnic tensions strained by a long Kurdish insurgency. The Ankara bombing was the deadliest of its kind in Turkey, killing more than 100 people.