The Turkish military has strengthened its presence along its southern border with Syria as officials announced they would step up their fight against the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS. A video posted online by a local news outlet showed Turkish tanks amassing along the border as troops had begun stepping up regular patrols, Hurriyet Daily News reported Thursday.
The heightened security comes a day after the country's foreign minister announced U.S. warplanes and drones were arriving at Turkish air bases ahead of a "comprehensive battle against [the] Islamic State [group]," involving the U.S., Turkey and potential other forces fighting within the anti-ISIS coalition. Turkey, considered a crucial ally in the battle against ISIS militants, staged its first airstrikes against the group last month after a supporter of ISIS detonated himself in the southern Turkish town of Suruc, killing 31 Turkish nationals.
Turkey has sent tanks to its border amid heightened tensions with ISIS before. Earlier this year, tanks rolled into Syrian territory as the Turkish military staged an operation to rescue 38 soldiers guarding a tomb surrounded by ISIS militants.
Until recently, Turkey was reluctant to take direct military action against the militant group, but last month's ISIS attack prompted widespread support throughout the country for Ankara to take a more aggressive role in the anti-ISIS fight, as the militants have continued to see significant gains throughout Syria and Iraq for more than a year now.
Turkish officials announced last week they would push ISIS fighters away from their border region and create a safe zone for anti-ISIS rebels and refugees fleeing the war. The buffer area would cut off crucial supply routes for the militants and help boost rebel groups supported by Turkey and the U.S.
Amid its battle against ISIS, Turkey has also faced growing criticism for its targeting of Kurdish militants, who staged a series of retaliatory attacks against Turkish security forces in response to the Suruc attack, which targeted pro-Kurdish, left-wing youth activists. Hundreds of Kurdish activists and militants have been arrested in the crackdown, as Turkey staged airstrikes against the outlawed Kurdish guerrilla group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), in Iraq. The leader of Turkey's most popular legal Kurdish party, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), called Thursday for European leaders to denounce Ankara's "unjust war" on rebels.