At least five people were killed and 12 wounded in an attack in the Syrian border town of Jarablus, Turkish security and hospital sources said on Thursday, only a day after civilians started returning to their homes in the town.
Wounded people were taken to hospitals in Turkey’s southern province of Gaziantep, which lies across the border from Jarablus, same hospital sources said.
Sources said that Islamic State (ISIS) group conducted the attack.
Jarablus, which had been held by Islamic State, was the first town captured by Turkey’s army and its Syrian rebel allies in an offensive launched on Aug. 24 that aims to sweep away ISIS militants and Syrian Kurdish militias from the frontier.
Turkey has said it cleared militants from a 90-km (56-mile) stretch of Syrian territory and has pushed south. It has also said it would support any U.S. initiative to strike Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa, further to the southeast.
A group of 292 Syrians went back to the Syrian town of Jarablus from Turkey on Wednesday, marking the first formal return of civilians since Ankara launched a military incursion two weeks ago to try to secure the border region, a Turkish official said.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the goal was to drive Islamic State from a 90 km strip of land along the border with Turkey, which has been buffeted by a spate of bombings blamed on the group that has killed scores of people.
“Starting from Jarablus, the cleansing of this region is our priority,” Kalin told a news briefing. “We have already cleansed 400 square km successfully.”
Turkey has long said it wants a “buffer zone” in the area, although it has not used the term during this incursion. As well as driving out the ultra-hardline Islamists, it also wants to prevent Kurdish militias from taking territory that will let them join up cantons they control in northeast and northwest Syria.
Last Monday, Syrian rebels said that they are advancing towards Manbij in northern Syria.
However, Turkey’s tactics have drawn criticism from its NATO ally the United States and also from Russia, with which it recently patched up ties.
Washington says Turkish attacks on Kurdish-aligned militias damage a U.S.-backed coalition that is fighting Islamic State. Russia, which backs the government in Damascus, said on Wednesday Ankara’s push south threatened Syria’s sovereignty.