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World Turkish jets join air campaign against Islamic State

A Turkish F-16 fighter jet prepares for takeoff from Incirlik airbase in the southern Turkish city of Adana July 3, 2012.

UMIT BEKTAS/REUTERS

Turkey announced Saturday that its fighter jets have carried out their first airstrikes as part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria.

A Foreign Ministry statement said the jets began attacking IS targets late Friday across the border in Syria that were deemed to be threats to Turkey.

After months of hesitance, Turkey agreed last month to take on a more active role in the fight against IS. Turkish jets used smart bombs to attack IS positions in Syria, without crossing into Syrian airspace and later Turkey granted U.S. jets access to a key air base close to the Syrian border.

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The Turkish attacks that began Friday were the first launched as part of the U.S.-led campaign and came after Turkish and U.S. officials announced they had reached a technical agreement concerning their co-operation, which calls for Turkey to be fully integrated into the coalition air campaign.

"Our fighter aircraft together with warplanes belonging to the coalition began as of yesterday evening to jointly carry out air operations against Daesh targets that constitute a threat against the security of our country," the Foreign Ministry said, using the Arabic acronym for IS. "The fight against the terrorist organization is a priority for Turkey."

The statement did not give more details on the targets.

On Thursday, IS militants seized five villages from rebel groups in northern Syria as they advanced toward the strategic town of Marea near the Turkish border. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other groups said IS carried out a suicide bombing on the outskirts of Marea amid fierce fighting in the area.

The IS advance was in the northern Aleppo province near where Turkey and the United States have agreed to establish an IS-free safe zone.

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