UPDATE: 7:10 a.m. EDT — The death toll in the car bomb explosion in southeastern Turkey has risen to 17, Reuters reported, citing a statement released by the provincial governor’s office. In addition, 27 people, including 11 soldiers were wounded in the blast, which Turkey suspects is the handiwork of militants belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Amid increasing violence in the region, Turkish military said Sunday 38 Islamic State group (also called ISIS) militants have died in clashes with Syrian rebels backed by the U.S.-led coalition’s air strikes in the northern part of the country.
United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had reported the rebels — with the help of Turkish tanks and air strikes — had been making considerable advances towards the ISIS stronghold of Dabiq, but a clash with ISIS fighters that began late Friday led to the Islamists retaking several villages in the region.
However, in a statement, the Turkish army said fourteen ISIS fighters were killed when they attempted to enter the rebel-controlled villages of Akhtarin and Turkmen Bareh, less than two miles from Dabiq, Reuters reported.
Ankara backs the rebels — who are fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime — in order to target ISIS, as well as Kurdish militants along Turkey’s border. Referred to as “Euphrates Shield,” the operation requires Turkey to deploy tanks and warplanes to support the rebels.
The army also added that another 17 ISIS militants were killed in air strikes by the coalition’s warplanes. In further airstrikes on Sunday morning, Turkish warplanes killed seven more militants — bringing the total to 38 — and destroyed five buildings used by ISIS fighters, the country’s military said in another statement.
However, Turkey’s attempt to control the activities of ISIS and Kurdish militants has not achieved the desired result. On Sunday, nine soldiers were killed and over 20 people injured in a car bomb explosion near a police station in southeastern Turkey.
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants — a designated terrorist organization — are suspected of being behind the car bomb detonation, Reuters reported.