Thursday, August 15, 2013

Turkish troops repel hundreds of 'smugglers' on Syrian border

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish troops returned fire after coming under attack along the Syrian border overnight as more than 1,000 alleged smugglers, including 150 on horseback, tried to cross into Turkey from Syria, the military said.

The incident on Turkey's long Syria frontier, where tensions have been on the rise over the past couple of months, follows a string of similar confrontations between Turkish soldiers and hundreds of people described by the military as smugglers.

The clashes in Turkey's Hatay province, where smuggling of fuel and other goods has continued for years, have raised questions about their increase in recent months and about why smugglers would operate in such large numbers.

In one incident last week, the Turkish military said up to 3,000 smugglers had tried to cross the frontier. [...]

The military said it spotted 750-1,000 people on foot, a separate group of 150 people on horseback, and some 40 vehicles forming a line around 300 meters (yards) along the border near the Turkish village of Kusakli in Hatay's Reyhanli district.

The troops deployed armored vehicles and a tank along the frontier to block the group from crossing and issued warnings in Turkish and Arabic to try to keep them back, the military said.

Despite the warnings, the groups continued to approach the border with the "attempt to engage in smuggling".