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Erdogan vows to "destroy terrorists"

August 29, 2016

After months of deadly attacks across the country, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to "destroy terrorists." In Syria, Turkish forces have ramped up their offensive against IS and Kurdish-led forces.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Image: Reuters/U. Bektas

Speaking at a rally in Gaziantep on Sunday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the "terrorists" are being "picked up one by one" by Turkey's security forces.

"They will all be cleansed out like a cancer cell," he told a roaring crowd of his supporters. "We will find them and punish them."

During his speech, Erdogan also reiterated his claim that a 12- to 14-year-old child was responsible for last weekend's suicide bomb at a Kurdish wedding in Gaziantep. At least 54 people died in the attack.

According to Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, the bomber has not yet been identified. Authorities have blamed the "Islamic State" (IS) for the attack, though neither IS nor any other militant groups have claimed responsibility.

Turkey offensive in Syria
Image: Reuters/U. Bektas

In light of last month's failed coup, Erdogan also repeated on Sunday that Ankara will decide whether to reinstate the death penalty. The pending decision has triggered an outcry from rights groups in Turkey as well as the West.

"My nation wants the death penalty," Erdogan said. "That is the decision of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey."

Civilian casualties

Erdogan's comments on Sunday came as Turkish forces pushed forward with their offensive against IS and Kurdish militants in Syria, killing dozens of people. The president vowed on Sunday to combat the jihadists and the US-backed Kurdish fighters "with the same determination."

Ankara said 25 Kurdish "terrorists" had been killed in the latest strikes, insisting that the army was doing everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, however, that at least 40 civilians were killed in Turkish shelling and air strikes on two areas held by pro-Kurdish forces in northern Syria - the first report of significant civilian casualties in Turkey's operation.

Various factions of the Turkey-backed Syrian rebels also reported on Sunday that they had seized several villages and towns from Kurdish-led forces south of Jarablus, including Amarneh.

The Kurdish-led forces "must pull back to the east of the Euphrates. We will fight all terrorist groups, including [the Kurdish-led fighters ... in all of northeast Aleppo," said Capt. Abdel-Salam Abdel-Razzak, a spokesman for the Nour el-Din el-Zinki group.

Tensions between US and Turkey

The military clashes between Kurdish and Turkish forces in Syria have put Turkey and the US at odds as Washington regards Kurdish fighters as its most effective ally against IS forces in Syria.

That adds complexity to the Syrian conflict that erupted five years ago with an uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The conflict has since drawn in regional states and world powers.

ksb/kl (Reuters, AFP, AP)