Sixteen wounded as rockets hit Turkish town near Syrian border: witness

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 24, 2016 4:57 AM

By Umit Bektas

KILIS, Turkey, (Reuters) - Two rockets hit the Turkish town of Kilis near the Syrian border on Sunday, a Reuters witness reported, wounding 16 people a day after the government promised to protect the area from repeated attacks by Islamic State militants.

The rockets struck two houses in a poor neighborhood near the town center. Sixteen people were injured and Turkish soldiers near the border returned fire into Syria, security sources said.

Residents gathered near the site where the rockets crashed, some of them calling for the local governor to resign and others shouting slogans against the government. Riot police were present, but there were no clashes.

"I cannot sleep, my son wakes up with nightmares, he cannot sleep. We aren't safe here. We are afraid to stay in our houses," Ayse, a 46-year-old woman, told Reuters.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had promised on Saturday that all necessary measures would be taken to prevent more rocket fire into Kilis. The town has been peppered by rockets in recent weeks. On Friday two people were killed in a similar attack.

On Saturday Davutoglu visited the nearby city of Gaziantep, about 55 km from Kilis, together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Donald Tusk.

Merkel, who said she favored establishing "safe zones" to shelter refugees in Syria, had been expected to visit Kilis last weekend but the location and timing of the visit were changed.

Kilis, just across the border from an Islamic State-held area of Syria, is housing an estimated 110,000 Syrian refugees.

Earlier this month more than 20 people were wounded in three straight days of rocket salvoes towards the town. Since January, the military has hit 146 Islamic State targets across the border from Kilis, the Turkish defense minister said this month, with an estimated 362 militants killed and 123 wounded.

Officials have said Turkey may call on allies in the U.S.-led coalition to take stronger action in its campaign against Islamic State along the border to help it prevent further attacks.

The militants come to the border on motorcycles and then fire rockets at the town, Turkish officials have said. The Turkish howitzers at the border have a difficult time firing on, mobile targets, according to the officials.

But in Kilis, patience is wearing thin. Residents said they were frustrated by what they called the government's inability to protect them. "I want the governor to resign," 26-year-old Murat told Reuters, citing his fear of further attacks.

"We aren't even able to sleep."

(Additional reporting by Seyhmus Cakan in Diyarbakir and Orhan Coskun in Ankara; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Mark Heinrich)