August 25, 2016 / 8:35 AM / 3 years ago

Turkish-backed rebels 'cleansing' Syrian town of Islamic State: Turkish minister

An Islamic State flag flies over the custom office of Syria's Jarablus border gate as it is pictured from the Turkish town of Karkamis, in Gaziantep province, Turkey August 1, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Syrian rebels backed by Turkey have taken control of the Syrian town of Jarablus from Islamic State fighters to prevent Kurdish forces from seizing a new swathe of territory on Turkey’s southern border, Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik said.

In an interview with Turkey’s NTV channel on Thursday, the minister also said Turkish-backed rebels were “cleansing” Jarablus of Islamic State, who had controlled the strategic town.

Syrian rebels backed by Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes entered one of Islamic State’s last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border on Wednesday, in Turkey’s first major U.S.-backed incursion into its southern neighbor.

Turkey sees the YPG, the armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish party PYD, as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s southeast.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay, Can Sezer and David Dolan; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Nick Tattersall

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