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Turkey Ramping Up ISIS Offensive After Wedding Bombing Kills 54

Turkish shellfire on a string of Islamic State-affiliated targets in northern Syria since Monday has paved the way for a planned ground attack on an Islamic State held town, according to a new report by the BBC.

Roughly 1,500 Syrian rebels have gathered in the Turkish border city of Gaziantep as the offensive against terrorist forces in the Syrian town of Jarablus begins in the coming days. Reuters quoted a senior rebel official who said the fighters served the Free Syrian Army.

A suicide bomber killed 54 guests during a Kurdish a wedding in the city of Gaziantep on Saturday.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim have so far offered mixed signals regarding the identity and affiliation of the bomber.

Erdogan has directly blamed ISIS for the attack, while Yildirim told reporters on Monday that investigators “did not have a clue” about attacker’s age or allegiances.

As Turkey becomes further embroiled in its neighbor’s civil war, the nation could expose itself to attacks by lone wolf terrorists or sleeper cells seeking revenge on behalf of ISIS.

The terrorist group’s forces must be “completely cleansed” from the areas in northern Syria that border Turkey, according to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Turkey’s long-held position has been against the continuation of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. In an unexpected move, Yildirim made a statement on Monday suggesting Assad could be part of an unspecified transition period, according to The Washington Post.

Turkey has been accused by Russia of purchasing oil from ISIS, after Turkish forces downed a Russian jet in November – the first instance of a NATO member engaging a Soviet or Russian aircraft in more than half a century. Moshe Yaalon, the Former Defense Minister for Israel, a country that has been at political odds with Turkey for the past six years, affirmed Russia’s accusations in January.

"It's up to Turkey, the Turkish government, the Turkish leadership, to decide whether they want to be part of any kind of cooperation to fight terrorism,” he said. “This is not the case so far.”

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By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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