Turkish F-16 fighter jet (file)
Turkish F-16 fighter jet (file) Reuters

The United States for the first time on Sunday deployed half a dozen F-16 warplanes to Turkey to help operations against the Islamic State (ISIS) group, officials said, according to AFP.

The deployment marks the first time since an international coalition began bombing ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria a year ago that American jets will launch strikes from Turkey, following an accord signed with Ankara late last month.

"Six U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons deploy to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, to support the fight against ISIL," the U.S. mission to NATO said in a tweet, referring to another acronym for ISIS.

The arrival of the fighter jets in Turkey along with support equipment and around 300 personnel was confirmed by the U.S. European Command in a statement.

"The detachment is from the 31st Fighter Wing based at Aviano Air Base, Italy. This follows Turkey's decision to host the deployment of U.S. aircraft conducting counter-ISIL operations," it said, according to the AFP news agency.

"The United States and Turkey, as members of the 60-plus nation coalition, are committed to the fight against ISIL in the pursuit of peace and stability in the region."

Up to now, armed drones from Incirlik were used to strike ISIS targets in Syria, supporting the Turkish air campaign against the militants.

According to media reports some 30 U.S. fighters are due to arrive in the coming days to take part in the operation.

A member of NATO, Turkey had refused to participate actively in the anti-ISIS operations for fear of supporting the Kurdish fighters battling the jihadists on the border in Syria.

Ankara changed its position after a deadly bombing blamed on ISIS on July 20 in Suruc, a Turkish town opposite the Syrian flashpoint of Kobane, that left 32 people dead.

Should ISIS be proven to be responsible for the bombing, it would mark the group's first strike on Turkish soil.

Turkey in response on July 24 launched a two-pronged "anti-terror" offensive against ISIS jihadists in Syria and also PKK militants after a wave of attacks inside the country.

But so far the Turkish raids have concentrated on the PKK targets, and only three of them have officially been identified as targeting ISIS.

Western officials have revealed that Ankara collaborated with ISIS, according to documents seized from the hideout of an ISIS leader, while Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party claims that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using strikes against the jihadists as "cover" for its main goal of eroding the PKK.

Erdogan has fiercely denied suggestions Turkey was assisting ISIS terrorists, accusing "dark powers" of spreading false propaganda about his country.