Video: Shell Kills at Least Five in Turkey Border Town
Incident may worsen already tense relations between Turkey and neighboring Syria
Ivan Watson CNN
October 03, 2012(CNN) -- At least five people were killed and 10 injured when a shell landed on a house in the Turkish town of Akcakale, near the Syrian border, the town's mayor said Wednesday.
Mayor Abdulhakim Ayhan said three children, their mother and a female neighbor died in the incident. Two police officers were among those hurt, he said.
The artillery shell was fired from the Syrian district of Tel Abayad, according to the semiofficial Anadolu news agency. However, it is not yet clear what military force or group launched it.
The incident may worsen already tense relations between Turkey and neighboring Syria, which is wracked by an 18-month-long conflict.
Musa Ozer, who lives next to the house where the artillery shell landed, was crying as he spoke on the phone with CNN.
"The bomb fell on us. My head's really not in the right place right now," he said. "My uncle was injured and his wife died. What am I to make of this?"
Ayhan said the shell landed on one house but debris from the impact scattered across a wider area, leading to the high number of injuries.
He also voiced the concern felt by residents of the southeastern town, in Urfa province.
"The people of Akcakale are rising up against this. They live in fear," he told CNN Turk.
The mayor said the shell that caused the deaths was the second to land Wednesday on Akcakale.
Salih Aydogdu, a local neighborhood mayor, called for authorities to act to prevent such incidents.
"Over the last month, we've had these types of incident five or six times. This is a small place; every time it happens, we can hear it. We are right on the border with Syria," he said.
"The people of Akcakale are upset. We want the governor and the police to take precautions. This was Turkey's most peaceful and tranquil area. Now we have neither peace nor tranquility."
For the past two weeks, schools have been closed in the town, and the teachers have left, he added.
Selcuk Unal, a spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, told CNN that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had contacted the Arab League and U.N. special envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, about the incident.
Davutoglu is consulting with other Foreign Ministry officials, Unal said via e-mail.
Turkey's foreign minister also called U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to express his government's "deepest concern" about the shelling, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
Ban "encouraged the minister to keep open all channels of communication with the Syrian authorities with a view to lessening any tension that could build up as a result of the incident," Nesirky said.
The current holder of the U.N. Security Council presidency, Guatemalan Ambassador Gert Rosenthal, said Turkey's U.N. envoy had asked to see him and Ban "regarding the course they wish to take." Rosenthal said he expected to hear more from Turkey later Wednesday.
Davutoglu also contacted NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen after the deadly shelling in Akcakale, NATO said.
NATO continues to follow the situation closely and with great concern, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a statement.
Akcakale has been rocked by previous fighting just across the border in Syria.
Last month, Turkish residents watched as Syrian shells crashed into Syrian territory, barely a stone's throw away from the Turkish border fence.
The close artillery barrage forced Turkish authorities to temporarily shut schools in Akcakale and close off roads leading to the Syrian border.
Only two years ago, Syria and Turkey enjoyed cozy bilateral relations. The neighbors had instituted visa-free travel for their citizens, and cross-border trade was booming.
Diplomatic relations ruptured, however, months after the Syrian uprising began. Last March, Turkey shuttered its embassy in Damascus and the Syrian government declared Turkey's ambassador, Omer Onhon, persona non grata.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly denounced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, publicly calling on him to step down after accusing him of massacring his own people.
The Syrian government, meanwhile, has accused Turkey of arming and funding Syrian rebels.
CNN journalists have witnessed light weapons in the form of assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns coming from Turkey to Syrian rebels.
In addition, Turkey is currently hosting more than 93,000 Syrian refugees in camps. Turkish officials estimate another 40,000 to 50,000 unofficial refugees live in Turkey outside refugee camps.
This is not the first deadly cross-border incident between the two neighbors.
On Tuesday, Turkish officials announced at least two suspected Kurdish fighters were killed after a clash broke out along the border in Turkey's Mardin province.
In June, the Syrian government announced it had shot down a Turkish military reconnaissance jet after it crossed into Syrian airspace.
Two Turkish pilots were killed in the incident. The Turkish government continues to insist the jet was shot down by a surface-to-air missile after it left Syrian airspace -- claims that the Syrian government denies.
CNN's Gul Tuysuz, Talia Kayali, Richard Roth and Saskya Vandoorne contributed to this report.