Syrian monitors: Turkish border guards kill eight refugees

Story highlights

  • SOHR: Eight fleeing Syria killed by Turkish border patrol
  • Turkish officials: We operate an open border policy; act appropriately

(CNN)Turkish security forces have shot and killed eight Syrian civilians, including four women and three children, according to a Syrian monitoring group. Another eight people were wounded in the incident.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that Turkish troops opened fire the civilians, which it characterized as refugees, as they tried to cross into Turkey from the northern countryside of Jisr al-Shughur in Idlib province. The group's reporting states that some of the injured are in critical condition.
    A Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said the reports "do not reflect reality."
    SOHR claims that Turkish forces have killed as many as 60 civilians since the beginning of the year.
    Many in northern Syria are caught between the brutality of life under ISIS, which holds swathes of territory in the north of the country, attacks on rebel-held territory by the Syrian regime and deadly airstrikes by coalition and Russian forces.
    ISIS' territory in northern Syria, including its de facto capital, Raqqa, is coming under sustained attack by both the Russian-backed Syrian army and a Kurdish-led alliance supported by U.S. airstrikes but the battle is expected to be long and arduous.

    'Open-door refugee policy'

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    A senior Turkish official was unable to confirm the attack.
    "Regarding the alleged shooting of Syrian nationals while they tried to cross southern border illegally: We are unable to independently verify the claims," the official told CNN.
    "Turkey provides humanitarian assistance to displaced persons in Northern Syria and follows an open door policy -- which means we admit refugees whose lives are under imminent threat."
    The Turkish military's code of engagement allows soldiers to fire at any perceived threat due to multiple armed ISIS attacks on border patrols. CNN has previously been told that procedure now is to verbally try to stop people approaching the border then fire warning shots.
    It is not clear from CNN's conversations with Turkish officials if warning shots were fired in this instance.

    'Appropriate measures'

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    A statement from a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Tanju Bilgic said that reports that the security forces "deliberately opened fire" on civilians crossing into Syria illegally "do not reflect reality."
    "Our security forces maintain the security of our borders with appropriate measures in line with the sensitivities presented by risks and threats brought about by both the conflict in Syria and the activities of terrorist organizations and smuggling networks in this country," the statement added.
    "Our security forces act fully within the confines of the legal framework when they respond to border incidents and illegal border crossing attempts."
    In the wake of the alleged incident, Turkish Minister for EU affairs Omer Celik tweeted: "We have maintained an open door policy for refugees since 2011. We call on the international community to be more generous (and) receptive."
    The migrant routes out of Syria and Iraq, as well as from African countries such as Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan, are becoming ever more parlous, the U.N. Refugee Agency said at the end of May.
    Over 2,500 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean while attempting to cross into Europe so far this year, with at least 880 drowned in the last week of May alone.
    "Thus far 2016 is proving to be particularly deadly," said William Spindler, spokesman for the agency, in announcing the soaring death toll in Geneva.
    U.N. officials were also seeing an increase in the numbers of unaccompanied children arriving, he said.
    ISIS is trying to infiltrate the migrant routes from Libya to smuggle its jihadists into Europe as the route from Turkey to Greece becomes more heavily policed, intelligence officials have told CNN.