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MIDEAST > Turkish truck drivers accuse rebels of looting

CILVEGOZU - Agence France-Presse

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Dozens of Turkish truck drivers on Saturday accused the Free Syrian Army of having burned and looted their lorries as they stormed a border post in Syria.
 
A group of truck owners, traders and transporters have been waiting since Friday at the Cilvegozu border crossing, in Turkey's southern province, which lies opposite to Syria's Bab al-Hawa post.
 
Rebels captured the Syrian border post after battling President Bashar al-Assad's loyalist troops.
 
"We barely escaped when the rebel fighters took full control of the Bab al-Hawa border post in Syria," said Hasan Abbasoglu as he retrived his vehicle from Syria after the looting.
 
While the truck was not damaged, its cargo had been ransacked. And he had to pay $700 (575 euros) in bribes to get his truck back, he said.
 
"I've been exporting carpets via the Syrian border crossing for seven years," he told AFP. "But this time we narrowly escaped with our lives." Members of the Free Syrian Army had done nothing to stop their fellow rebels from looting, he complained.
 
The opposition Free Syrian Army is made up of mainly army defectors fighting against the Damascus regime and some of its leaders are based in Turkish camps along the border.
 
Thursday's fighting saw Syrian rebels seize the border crossing with Turkey, prompting an all-out assault by the regime in Damascus to regain the lost border posts including one on its border with Iraq, according to reports.
 
Abbasoglu was relatively lucky: he at least got his truck back.
 
At Bab al-Hawa, four kilometres (two and a half miles) from Turkey's Cilvegozu, Syrian rebels ransacked customs buildings and pulled cargo from the back of stranded trucks.
 
"All of our trucks were burned," said trader Ali Cengiz, who exports to Saudi Arabia via Syria. "The rebel fighters destroyed our trucks during the clashes." Turkey was a major economic partner with Syria before President Bashar al-Assad clamped down on the uprising that erupted in March last year, straining ties between the two countries.
 
Turkey had denounced the bloody crackdown, which has sent more than 35,000 Syrians across the border into its territory alone.
 
The Turkish foreign ministry has repeatedly warned its citizens not to travel to Syria because of security concerns.
 
Traders however argued that as long as the border crossing at Cilvegozu remained open, they have to keep trading via Syria in order to stay in business.
 
"How will we earn our living then?" asked Cengiz. "We have debts, will the government make up for our loss?" Ali Celik, who runs a road haulage company, looked over the border into Syria: but he did not hold out much hope for his merchandise. His trucks were stranded at Bab al-Hawa, he said.
 
"We sent tow-trucks to retrieve our vehicles but we have received no information so far," he said.
 
He pointed out his trading partner. "He is very disappointed," he said. "He doesn't want to speak." About 40 trucks were stranded at the Syrian border post after this week's fighting according to witnesses.
 
Local officials were holding a meeting at Cilvegozu on Saturday to discuss security measures in the light of Friday's looting.

July/21/2012

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READER COMMENTS

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Murat

7/22/2012 7:22:59 PM

Turkey did NOT start this. Keeping the Assas regime intact or not was never a choice for Turks. It is a choice Syrians made.

Nikos T.

7/22/2012 3:37:31 PM

That's the way it is. Turkey is making a very big mistake by supporting these criminals, mercenaries, fanatics. Turkey's politicians are dragging the country in a war which might cost this nation's entity.

stella maris

7/22/2012 12:58:16 PM

@ VTiger I agree with you. Democracy is not an imported system, it is a state of mind, developed during many centuries in the West. The ME countries, because of their self-imposed severance from the rest of the world, never had the opportunity to follow the developements there and to integrate it into their mental "genes" (not biologically meant!). For the moment they do not even want ot change the basic concept, which is the strict separation of Law and State from Religion.

V Tiger

7/22/2012 11:17:39 AM

Welcome to the turmoil.This is just the beginning.Still there's sooooooooooo much more to come.There will come the day when even the fiercest opponents of Assad will wish for the Assad days to come back.Ask the Iraqis,Egyptians & Libyans.Please do not misunderstand.This comment does not mean that dictators are good.It only means that ME is different from the west & forced democracy can never succeed.

Hermann Helmholtz

7/22/2012 12:16:01 AM

What 'Free Syrian Army'? There are some 300 groups of 5-20 men each, with inflated names ranging from Brigade to Battalion, with no central control, out to loot and destroy. When they landed on the Duty Free Shops on the Iraqi border, they emptied it, and the last I checked, duty-free shops do not sell copies of the Qur'an, as far as I remember! These groups do cross over and become refugees in Turkey, when they need to rest - and presumably, sell the loot!

Blue Dotterel

7/21/2012 7:16:25 PM

Only goes to prove that the real cause of violence, death and destruction are those enemies of Syria, the FSA. Most of them are Sunni fundamentatists recruited abroad and Syrian discontents. All are financed and armed by the GCC and NATO.

Rimon Tree

7/21/2012 7:00:55 PM

In my yesterday comment (which was not posted) I expressed my concern that it might not be very delightful to 'Turkey to have their border controlled by the "Free Syrian Army". Now I seem to be proved right and 'Turkey might get into some problems with the "good ones".
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