Turkish army returns fire from al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters on Syrian border

October 16, 2013, Wednesday/ 22:07:00

The Turkish military said on Wednesday that it returned fire from fighters from Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) that is linked to al-Qaeda on the Syrian side of the border in the Kilis province.

The General Staff said in a statement posted on its website that troops fired four rounds from self-propelled artillery guns at positions held by ISIS near the Syrian border town of Azaz after a mortar shell fired from the Syrian side landed near a Turkish border outpost. It said the attack occurred Tuesday.

Turkey frequently retaliates against stray fire from Syrian government or opposition forces, but it was the first time the country has declared that it had engaged the al-Qaeda-linked group.  

Last month, ISIS seized Azaz, about 5 km (3 miles) from the border with Turkey, and has repeatedly clashed with the local rebel Northern Storm brigade since then.

The border incident comes as Turkey faces allegations that it is supporting terrorist and radical groups in Syria. Critics frequently blame Turkey for supporting the fighters affiliated with the al-Qaeda in Syria while clashes increased between Kurdish militants and radical fighters in northern Syria.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has recent denied the claims, saying Turkey doesn't support any terrorist organization or radical groups in any part of the world, accusing the regime of Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad of being responsible for the emergence of the radical groups.