Turkish villagers thrust into center of Syria-Turkey tensions (+video)
Residents of the Turkish border town of Akçakale buried their dead and blamed their government in Ankara for not acting sooner to stop Syrian shelling.
Residents in the Turkish border town at the center of rising military tensions between Turkey and Syria blamed their government in Ankara for not acting to forestall a fatal mortar strike that killed five people here yesterday and left 11 wounded.
Early this morning in Akçakale, relatives of the Ozer and Timucin families buried their dead: 8-year-old Zeynep Timucin, her older sisters Aysegul and Fatos, their mother Zeliha, and aunt Gulsen Ozer.
“Why didn’t the government protect us before they died?” asks Ali Sonis, Mrs. Ozer’s brother, at a community center acting as a house of condolence. “The bombing has been going on for a month…. They wait for someone to die, and then they act."
“The first fault is our government because they chose the side of the rebels," he adds. "We support AKP [the Turkish ruling party], but after this situation we will think twice to support them or not.”
Other residents said shells and stray gunfire had started falling in and around the town 15 days earlier, when rebels opposing President Bashar al-Assad seized control of the adjacent Syrian border post of Tal al-Abyad, making it a target for the regime.
Today, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted his country did not want war, but was "capable of defending its citizens and borders" after the Turkish parliament authorized cross-border raids into Syria. “Nobody should try and test our determination on this subject," he said.
Akcakale’s mayor, Abdulhakim Ayhan, says Prime Minister Erdogan has telephoned him twice since the fatal mortar strike.
“He told me that whatever you need to do here just do it without looking at costs or anything, in order to protect people and whatever needs to be done for security and for families,” he says.