KARKAMIS, Turkey, Aug. 23 (UPI) — A town in southeast Turkey was evacuated by armed forces on Tuesday after Islamic State militants began shelling the district ahead of plans by rebels to seize control of a terrorist stronghold nearby, officials said.
Officials said they ordered the evacuations in Karkamis Tuesday after it came under direct militant mortar attack. The town of about 3,000 people has effectively become caught in the middle of an intense battle between the terror group and Turkey-backed rebels in the contested area.
Residents were ordered to evacuate by loudspeaker and shuttle buses transported residents out of the area.
Karkamis is near the militant-controlled town of Jarablus, which is the focus of an upcoming offensive by rebels to seize control and thereby sever a vital Islamic State supply route. That offensive is expected in the coming days, news reports said.
Turkish officials have also targeted Syrian Kurdish forces in the area to discourage them from attempting to seize Jarablus.
Tuesday’s mortar attack followed similar assaults by rebels over the southern border and into Syria, where militants operate in great numbers. The planned offensive is intended to clear out militants near the border and disrupt shipments of weapons from Syria into Turkey to be used against Turkish forces and citizens.
Terrorist attacks have been commonplace in southern Turkey in recent months. On Saturday, more than 50 people were killed when militants bombed a wedding party in Gaziantep — which is located about 45 miles northwest of Karkamis.