Turkish troops fire on fleeing Syrians, killing 11

Since the beginning of the year, at least 60 people -- all civilians -- have been killed in fire by Turkish border guards

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Turkish border guards shot dead at least 11 Syrians, mostly from one family, as they tried to cross into Turkey from northwestern Syria, activists and a monitoring group said on Sunday.

At least two women and four children were among those killed in the shootings overnight as the refugees sought to cross into Turkey from the border village of Khirbet al Jouz, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Several activists in the area backed up the report.

Turkey has repeatedly denied accusations of its security forces firing on Syrians trying to cross the frontier, which has been closed for several months.

But the Observatory has recorded numerous incidents this year, and said Sunday’s toll was among the highest.

The Britain-based Observatory said the group of eight had been displaced by fighting around the northern Syrian town of Manbij, held by ISIS and under attack by US-backed forces.

They fled northwest towards Idlib province and the border, but were killed “when Turkish border guards opened fire on them as they tried to cross into Turkey,” said the Observatory.

It said that four of those killed were children, adding that eight people were wounded, some of them critically.

Since the beginning of the year, at least 60 people -- all civilians -- have been killed in fire by Turkish border guards, the Observatory said.

In May, Human Rights Watch accused Turkish border guards of shooting and beating Syrian asylum seekers.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied the reports, and the Turkish army says it only fires at armed smugglers, not at civilians.

But in its statement, the National Coalition expressed its “surprise and condemnation after this terrible tragedy against our brothers fleeing the regime.
“The deaths of defenseless Syrians contradicts the hospitality of the Turkish government and the Turkish people,” it said.

Turkey is hosting over 2.7 million refugees from the conflict in Syria. Only a quarter of a million live in refugee camps, while the rest are in towns and cities.

More than 280,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 with demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

(Reuters, AFP)