Turkish military convoy heads for Syrian border: reports
ANTAKYA - Reuters
Turkish military trucks carry missile batteries on June 28, 2012 in the center of Hatay. AFP photo
Turkey sent a convoy of about 20 vehicles carrying troops, missile batteries and armored vehicles to the border with Syria today amid growing concern in Turkey about security on its southern frontier, news reports and witnesses said.
It was the latest in a series of deployments in the region in recent weeks. There has been no indication that Turkish forces will cross the border, and the troop movements may be strictly precautionary in the face of spiralling violence in Syria.
The convoy left a base in Gaziantep province to head south to Kilis province, where the troops will stay, the state-run Anatolian news agency said.
Witnesses said the troops and vehicles had left a major highway and were now stationed along a fenced-off section on the frontier with Syria.
Television footage from Doğan News Agency showed at least six armored vehicles atop trucks traveling along an asphalt road. Buses and covered trucks that appeared to be personnel carriers were also in the convoy.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a former Assad ally, is now among his most vocal critics, calling for him to step down from power amid the 16-month uprising that has killed thousands of Syrian civilians.
Turkey, a member of NATO, in recent months has conducted a number of troop deployments along its 911-km border with Syria, which is in the throes of an insurgency seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
Tensions between the neighbours hit a peak on June 22, when Syrian forces shot down a Turkish military reconnaissance aircraft, killing two pilots.
Kilis houses a major refugee centre for Syrians fleeing the violence at home. About 44,000 refugees are in Turkey.
Erdoğan had warned last week the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, against setting up camps inside northern Syria
That area, which has a large Kurdish population, has been spared much of the violence seen elsewhere in Syria, but Turkey is worried the PKK could exert influence there amid a power vacuum and threaten Turkish security at the border.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.