Turkish commander inspects troops on Syria border in surprise visit

Turkish commander inspects troops on Syria border in surprise visit

Turkish Land Forces Commander Gen. Hayri Kıvrıkoğlu is seen during a visit to Siirt Governor in this file photo. (Photo: AA)

March 28, 2012, Wednesday/ 14:16:00

Land Forces Commander Gen. Hayri Kıvrıkoğlu on Wednesday traveled to the border province of Kilis to inspect Turkish troops.

Gen. Kıvrıkoğlu, accompanied by Gen. Servet Yörüklü, Second Army commander, visited a Syrian refugee camp in the town of Öncüpınar. They also had talks with Governor Yusuf Odabaş before he inspected Turkish troops along the border later in the day.

Kıvrıkoğlu and Yörüklü already visited a brigade in the İskenderun district of Hatay, also on the Syrian border, on Tuesday evening.

The generals' surprise visit comes after Turkey recently raised the possibility of establishing a buffer zone in the event of a massive influx of refugees from Syria, as well as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's talks in Tehran, which focused on the latest developments in Syria. Analysts say such a move is likely to lead to armed confrontations between Turkish and Syrian forces.

Turkey has bitterly criticized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brutal crackdown on anti-regime protests and said it would offer help to Syrians fleeing from violence.

In 1998 when tension was running high with Syria due to its support for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody war in Turkey's southeast since 1984, former Land Forces Commander Gen. Atilla Ateş visited the Reyhanlı Border Command in the southern province of Hatay where he made harsh statements against Syria's policies.

Syrians caught trying to enter refugee camp with explosive belts

Turkish gendarmes on Tuesday detained three Syrians who were carrying explosives as they were trying to enter a tent city hosting nine generals who defected from the Syrian army.

The three Syrians attempted to enter the tent city near the village of Apaydın in the Altınözü district in the province of Hatay on Tuesday, telling gendarmes guarding the refugee camp that they were staying there with relatives. The three men, identified only as A.İ., S.M. and H.M., were instead taken to a gendarmerie station for questioning after gendarmes searched them and found the explosive belts.

An investigation is under way following the discovery of explosives. A subsequent search of the camp revealed that there were no other explosive devices inside the camp, but security was heightened in Syrian refugee camps across Hatay. Last week security personnel confiscated three grenades before they were smuggled into a refugee camp in Hatay's Reyhanlı district.

More than 17,000 Syrians have fled to Turkey to escape violence in their country. In addition to the refugees, Turkey has also emerged as the main haven for Syrian opposition groups and fighters.