Turkish army repels some 4.000 smugglers on Syrian border
The Turkish army has said it repelled up to 4,000 smugglers on the Turkish-Syrian border in nine hours of clashes. A statement the Turkish General Staff released on Monday said mobile army units on patrol near Narlica Ogulpinar border post in Hatay spotted up to 4,000 smugglers. The military said the group consisted of approximately 3,000 people on foot and 350 on horseback as well as up to 250 vehicles, the largest crowd to confront troops in such an incident. It stated that the smugglers attempted to enter Turkey at around 8:45 p.m. on Sunday, adding that troops made a number of announcements in Turkish and Arabic for the group to disperse. The statement noted that the smugglers refused to heed the warnings and tried to storm the border from 11 different points and started to heavily shower the army units with stones. The army then fired warning shots in the air and fired near smugglers in a "controlled way" to fend off the approaching group. The army also fired tear gas on the smugglers and succeeded in preventing them from entering Turkey. The clashes lasted for nine hours and ended at around 6:00 a.m. on Monday morning. Sunday's incident follows similar confrontations between troops and smugglers in recent months. Ten days ago, nearly 3,000 smugglers also tried to storm the Turkish border. A week earlier, the military announced troops had come under fire from a nearby village on the Turkish side of the border as they confronted a group of 750-1,000 smugglers on foot and 150 on horseback. A day before that, a soldier was badly injured after a small group of smugglers confronted by the troops set diesel containers on fire. In another incident earlier this month, 18 Turkish soldiers were injured after a group of smugglers, attempting to bring diesel from war-torn Syria into Turkey through a village in southeastern Hatay's Reyhanli district, set diesel drums on fire to escape capture by the military. Smuggling of fuel and goods has continued for years in Hatay, but the recent hike in frequency of incidents of confrontation with the military as well as the large number of people involved in such incidents have put the Syrian border once again under the spotlight.