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Turkey PM says its artillery hits IS positions in Bashiqa

Ankara: Turkish artillery has hit jihadist positions in the northern Iraqi town of Bashiqa near Mosul after Kurdish Peshmerga forces asked for support, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in televised comments today.

“They (Peshmerga) asked for help from our soldiers at Bashiqa base. We are providing support with artillery, tanks and howitzers,” Yildirim told reporters in western Turkey.

At the base, Ankara says some 700 Turkish soldiers are training Iraqi fighters to help remove the Islamic State group from the country.

It has been a week since Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga supported by the US-led coalition began a major offensive to recapture Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, from IS.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s presence in the country has caused a war of words between Ankara and Baghdad. Earlier this month President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to “know your place”.

Tensions heightened after the Iraqi government referred to the Turkish soldiers as an “occupying force” in the first week of October and have continued to escalate. Abadi said yesterday that Baghdad did not need help from Turkey to liberate Mosul.

Yildirim said Tuesday that Turkish jets joined in the coalition’s air operations during the long-awaited offensive. Erdogan has insisted that it is “out of the question” for Turkey not to be involved in the Mosul operation in some way.

Mosul was captured by IS in 2014 and is the last major jihadist stronghold in the country. Losing Mosul would leave Raqa, the jihadists’ de facto capital in Syria, as the only major city under its control.

PTI