Turkish tanks and artillery have attacked Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria in retaliation for the suicide bombing in Istanbul which killed 10 tourists, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
Close to 200 extremists were “rendered ineffective” – the government’s term for killed – in the artillery strikes in the past 48 hours, Mr Davutoglu said.
He spoke a day after Kurdish rebels detonated a car bomb at a police station in south-eastern Turkey, then attacked it with rocket launchers and firearms, killing six people including civilians, officials said.
It was a further sign of the deteriorating security situation in the country which is grappling with both the Islamic extremists and the rebels who have intensified attacks in the country.
Mr Davutoglu, speaking in Ankara, said the military targeted some 500 extremist positions along the border with Syria and near a Turkish camp in northern Iraq. He did not rule out possible air strikes against the group.
The Turkish leader said Ankara decided to hit the IS group as soon as it had determined that it was responsible for the “heinous” bombing at Istanbul’s main tourist district, just steps away from the landmark Blue Mosque. All the victims were German tourists.
“Turkey will continue to punish with even greater force any threat that is directed against Turkey or its guests,” Mr Davutoglu said. “We will press ahead with our determined struggle until the Daesh (IS) terrorist organisation leaves Turkey’s borders ... and until it loses its ability to continue with its acts that soil our sacred religion, Islam.”
The Kurdish rebel attack late on Wednesday targeted the police station in the town of Cinar, in the mostly Kurdish Diyarbakir province, and police lodgings located at the building, the Diyarbakir governor’s office said.
The force of the blast caused a house near the police station to collapse. The private Dogan news agency said the dead included the wife of a policeman and a 5-month-old baby who were killed at the police lodgings and two children who died in the collapsed house.
Another police station was attacked with rocket launchers in Midyat town, in the province of Mardin in what appeared to be a simultaneous assault, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. No casualties were reported there.
The explosion caused extensive damage, affecting buildings close to the police station. Windows were blown off and shop shutters were damaged from the force of the blast.
The governor’s office said the security forces responded to the attack, but it was not clear if there were any casualties among the rebels.
The attack came a day after the suicide bomber set off the explosion in Istanbul. Turkish officials say the bomber, a Syrian born in 1988, was affiliated with the Islamic State group.
Hundreds of people gathered at the site of the attack on Thursday, to lay flowers and hold a minute’s silence.
Five people have been detained in connection with the Istanbul bombing, authorities said.
The conflict between the government forces and the PKK has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984. The group is considered a terror organisation by Turkey and its western allies.
On Thursday, mourners at Cinar buried three of the dead – Lokman Acikgoz, who owned a local shop, and his two sons.