Friday 24 March 2017

Turkish town is pounded by rockets from Syria

Police secure the scene as locals watch after two rockets hit the Turkish town of Kilis near the Syrian border. Photo: Reuters/Umit Bektas
Police secure the scene as locals watch after two rockets hit the Turkish town of Kilis near the Syrian border. Photo: Reuters/Umit Bektas

Umit Bektas and Akin Aytekin Kilis, Turkey

Rockets pounded the Turkish town of Kilis near the Syrian border yesterday, killing one person and injuring 26, a day after the government promised to protect the area from repeated attacks by Islamic State militants.

Two rockets struck houses in a poor neighbourhood near the town centre. Sixteen people were injured and Turkish soldiers near the border returned fire into Syria, security sources said.

Later in the day, one person was killed and 10 more injured when two more rockets crashed into a mosque. The mosque was 100 metres from the governor's office, where Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan was holding talks at the time.

"I am calling for our citizens to be calm," Akdogan told a news conference in Kilis. "All measures will be taken in this regard. Unfortunately there is no authority across our border."

Akdogan said measures would be announced after a cabinet meeting today.

Police later used water cannon to disperse residents who were protesting what they said was the government's lack of action over the attacks.

Nightmares

"My son wakes up with ­nightmares . . . We aren't safe here. We are afraid to stay in our houses," said Ayse, a 46-year-old woman.

Lying just across the border from an area of Syria controlled by Islamic State, Kilis has been peppered by rocket fire in recent weeks. On Friday two people were killed in an attack on the town, home to around 110,000 Syrian refugees.

Visiting the nearby city of Gaziantep on Saturday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu promised that all necessary measures would be taken to prevent more rocket fire.

He was accompanied by EU Council President Donald Tusk as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel who had been expected to visit Kilis last weekend but the location and timing of the visit were changed. Merkel said on Saturday she favoured establishing "safe zones" to shelter refugees in Syria.

At a news conference with US President Barack Obama yesterday, she said these could be agreed areas where civilians could feel free from bombardment, rather than zones protected by foreign forces.

Kilis residents said they were frustrated by what they called the government's inability to protect them. "I want the governor to resign," 26-year-old Murat said. "We aren't even able to sleep."

Irish Independent

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