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Turkey Shells ISIS Targets in Syria, Arrests Russian Agents | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu attends news conference in Helsinki, Finland in this April 6, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the Turkish military struck targets from the ISIS terrorist organization in Syria on Wednesday in retaliation after four rockets that hit the southeastern Turkish border town of Kilis for the third straight day on Wednesday.

Davutoglu said in a speech the Turkish army struck in back in line with its rules of engagement.

More than 20 people have been wounded this week alone as multiple rockets struck Kilis, a town that is home to an estimated 110,000 Syrian refugees and is frequently hit by shelling from across the border, a region controlled by ISIS.

Four rockets hit Kilis on Wednesday but they landed in an empty field and no casualties were reported, Mayor Hasan Kara told Reuters.

Northern Syria has witnessed fierce battles recently as ISIS – despite retaking the town of al-Rai from rebels – is pushed back by rebels, Kurdish fighters and Syrian government forces.

Kilis residents watched as the Turkish military carried out their retaliatory missions across the border.

Davutoglu said measures would be taken to ensure the safety of citizens. “Daesh targets have been struck within the rules of engagement,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the terrorist hardline group.

“We are conducting a decisive battle to protect our citizens from this circle of fire,” he said.

Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar and the head of the national intelligence agency Hakan Fidan were visiting Kilis to inspect the area and discuss border security, Davutoglu said.

“We go to sleep to the sounds of rockets and we wake up to the sound of rockets,” Kara told Reuters by telephone, adding that the death toll from Tuesday’s rocket attack had risen to two after another person died in hospital overnight.

The military has now struck 146 ISIS targets across the border from Kilis since January 9, Yilmaz said at a news conference in Kilis.

“Based on our information, we think they have suffered 362 casualties and 123 injuries,” he said.

The Turkish armed forces often respond to such attacks by firing at targets in Syria. In March, two people, including a young child, were killed by rocket fire into Kilis.

Turkey is confronting a number of security threats on multiple fronts. As a member of a U.S.-led coalition, it is fighting ISIS in neighboring Syria and Iraq. It is also battling Kurdish militants in its southeast, since the collapse of a ceasefire last year which has triggered the worst violence since the 1990s.

Two Russian Men Arrested

Turkish police have arrested two Russians, over the killing of a Chechen militant commander in Istanbul last year, the Haberturk newspaper said on Wednesday, one of several killings of Chechens in the country.

The Russian consulate has confirmed the information, saying the Russian citizens deny all the accusations.

The two men were detained in Istanbul on April 8 in an operation by Turkish police and intelligence agents as they made preparations for another unspecified operation. Istanbul police declined to comment.

The reported arrests come against a background of poor relations between Turkey and Russia following the shooting down of a Russian warplane near the Syrian border by Turkish military jets last November.

The newspaper said the 52-year-old Yury Anisimov and 55-year-old Aleksandr Smirnovare are reportedly suspected of having killed jihadist Abdulvakhid Edelgireyev from the Chechen Republic, Russia.

Haberturk said they were found to be carrying fake ID papers and memory sticks containing photos of security cameras, parking areas and license plates.

Many Chechen dissidents have settled in Turkey since the two wars in the 1990s between Russia and militants in its Chechnya region and there have been several murders of Chechens there that remain unsolved.

In May 2013 a prominent figure in the Chechen diaspora was shot dead in his Ankara office. In 2011, three Chechens were shot dead in broad daylight on a suburban street in Istanbul.