Turkish bus attacked in Syria, two wounded

Witness says eight uniformed Syrian soldiers ordered passengers off the bus, aimed rifles at passengers.

By REUTERS
November 21, 2011 12:40
2 minute read.
Turkish troops patrol border with Syria

Turkish troops patrol border with Syria_311. (photo credit: Reuters/Osman Orsal)

 
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ANKARA - Two Turkish citizens were wounded when gunmen opened fire on a convoy of Turkish buses carrying pilgrims in northern Syria, Turkish media reported on Monday.

Turkish NTV news channel said the driver of one of the three buses and a pilgrim were wounded in the attack at a checkpoint just across the Syrian border.

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Private news agency Dogan showed images of a passenger bus with one of its side windows smashed, apparently from a gunshot, after it returned to the Turkish border town of Cizre.

A Turkish foreign ministry official said he was aware of an incident and the ministry was trying to establish the details.

Passengers disembarking at Cizre told Dogan they had been told to get off the bus by up to eight uniformed Syrian soldiers at a checkpoint.

"They were hidden in their hideouts ... these were soldiers, these were not civilians, their flags were there," a male passenger in his thirties said.

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One of the soldiers said "'come, come', he wanted to get me inside, I didn't go inside," the passenger said.

"I had nothing in my hands, there were seven or eight of them. He cocked his gun at me and said 'put your hands up' ... I shouted for everyone to run, we ran and they started firing at our backs. God saved us," he said.

"We have returned from death. We have returned from death," said another male middle-aged passenger, sobbing as he spoke.

It was not immediately clear when the incident happened, but it appeared to have taken place overnight, as Dogan's footage of the passengers back in Turkey was taken early on Monday morning.

The wounded were being treated in a hospital in Antakya, in just across the border in Turkey's Hatay province, NTV reported.

Turkey, which shares a 910 km border with Syria, has become increasingly critical of Syrian President Bashar Asaad over his bloody crackdown on anti-government protests, which has severely damaged ties between the two former allies.

Last week, attacks on Turkish diplomatic missions in Syria by pro-Assad crowds led Ankara to evacuate diplomats' families. But the attack on the Turkish bus convoy appeared to be the first of its kind since the violence in Syria started in March.

Turkey is considering imposing economic sanctions on Assad's government, as some countries have already done, and officials have said there are contingency plans for the Turkish military to establish a buffer or no-fly zone inside Syrian territory to protect civilians there from Assad's security forces. 

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