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Explosions as Turkey clears mines from Syrian border

This picture taken on September 1, 2016 in the Turkish-Syrian border town of Karkamis, in the southern region of Gaziantep, shows a Turkish army tank driving to the Syrian-Turkish border town of Jarabulus. Turkey denied a US claim it had agreed a truce with a Kurdish militia targeted as part of its week-old intervention in Syria but Turkish-backed fighters confirmed a lull in the fighting. In an unprecedented operation, Turkey sent tanks into Syria to help Arab rebels clear the border area of Islamic State (IS) jihadists and halt the westward advance of a US-backed Kurdish militia, which Ankara sees as a terrorist group.  / AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC

This picture taken on September 1, 2016 in the Turkish-Syrian border town of Karkamis, in the southern region of Gaziantep, shows a Turkish army tank driving to the Syrian-Turkish border town of Jarabulus.<br />Turkey denied a US claim it had agreed a truce with a Kurdish militia targeted as part of its week-old intervention in Syria but Turkish-backed fighters confirmed a lull in the fighting. In an unprecedented operation, Turkey sent tanks into Syria to help Arab rebels clear the border area of Islamic State (IS) jihadists and halt the westward advance of a US-backed Kurdish militia, which Ankara sees as a terrorist group.<br />/ AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC

Turkish military experts on Thursday cleared mines from the area of the Syrian town of Jarabulus captured from jihadists last week, using controlled explosions that sent clouds of dust and smoke into the sky, an AFP photographer said.

Pro-Ankara Syrian rebels, backed by Turkish aviation and tanks, took Jarabulus from Islamic State (IS) fighters in a lightning operation and now enjoy full control of the town.

The de-mining operation on the Syrian side of the border was easily visible from the Turkish border town of Karkamis, with the controlled explosions creating huge white-and-grey clouds of smoke and dust.

An AFP photographer on the border heard at least a dozen explosions and said that the de-mining work was continuing.

IS jihadists are believed to have left large quantities of mines and explosives around Jarabulus and operations to destroy them have been in progress since the capture of the town a week ago.

Artillery fire could also be heard on the other side of the border, the photographer added.

Turkey says its offensive inside Syria, which began with the capture of Jarabulus, is aimed at ridding the border area not just of IS jihadists but also a Kurdish militia that Ankara regards as a terror group.

But Turkish strikes on the Kurdish People’s Protection Units militia (YPG) have worried the United States, which regards the group as an ally in the fight against IS.

There have been Turkish air strikes and artillery fire on YPG targets while a Turkish soldier was killed inside Syria when his tank was hit by a rocket fired by the YPG.

Three other soldiers were injured in anti-tank fire in an IS-held area west of Jarabulus, Turkish media reported.

Turkey on Wednesday denied a US claim it had agreed a truce with the Kurdish militia but the Turkish-backed fighters confirmed there was at least a lull in the fighting.

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