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Turkey deploys tanks, military vehicles to border with Iraq

Erdogan warned that Turkey would be closely monitoring Shia militias' behaviour in northern Iraq

Date of publication: 1 November, 2016

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Turkish armed forces are 'deploying tanks and other military vehicles' to the border with Iraq.

The Turkish military has deployed tanks and artillery to southeastern districts near the Iraqi border, military sources said on Tuesday.

The 30-vehicle convoy left Ankara for Silopi and was now close to Adana province in southern Turkey.

The deployment came as Iraq said its forces had entered Mosul for the first time since the Islamic State group overran the city more than two years ago.

Ankara has repeatedly insisted that it would be involved in the offensive in northern Iraq and would be "at the table".

Defence Minister Fikri Isik said Tuesday's deployment was a part of Turkey's preparation for "important developments in the region", referring to Kurdish rebels inside the country and events in Iraq.

"Turkey is preparing in advance for whatever happens (and) this is one element of that," he said, quoted by the official news agency Anadolu.

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984, with almost daily attacks against Turkish security forces in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

Isik added that there was a "serious fight against terror" inside Turkey, a reference to Islamic State (IS) and the PKK.

Last month, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim claimed Turkish artillery hit IS positions in Bashiqa, northern Iraq.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday indicated that Turkey wanted to reinforce its security forces already in Silopi in Sirnak province.

There have been clashes between the Turkish army and Kurdish militants in Silopi while its residents have been subject to curfews earlier this year. The district is also close to PKK bases in the Qandil mountains in northern Iraq.

Erdogan also warned Shia militias in Iraq against attacking Turkmen residents of Tal Afar, a town near Mosul after the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force launched an offensive at the weekend.

Read also: In-depth: Turkmen fighters decry Turkey's military role in Mosul battle

Erdogan said the militia group could prompt a Turkish response if it "terrorises" the Iraqi-Turkmen town of Tal-Afar.

Turkish forces are also playing a role in Syria's battle. Last week, Erdogan said that the military operation supporting Syrian opposition fighters in northern Syria will target the IS-held city of Raqqa.

Rebels were advancing on the important city of al-Bab to clear Islamic State group elements, the Turkish leader said, adding that after retaking the city, they will target Manbij, captured by Syrian Kurdish militia in August, and "then we will go towards Raqqa".

Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State, has long been the next target in the fight against the extremists but there is a debate on how the offensive would look on the ground.

The US-led coalition against IS is likely to provide air support but Turkey opposes the involvement of any Syrian Kurdish militias.

Since August 24, Turkish tanks and special forces have been inside northern Syria providing support to opposition fighters in an ambitious operation to remove IS militants from the entire border area.

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