herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

100,000 refugees flee to Turkey to escape militants

The number of refugees seeking shelter in Turkey from the Islamic State (IS)group's advance across northern Syria has hit 100,000 in less than a week.

The head of Turkey's disaster management agency, Fuat Oktay, said the figure relates to Syrians escaping the area near the Syrian border town of Kobani, where fighting has raged between IS and Kurdish fighters since Thursday.

The UN refugee agency said earlier that about 70,000 Syrians have crossed into Turkey in the past 24 hours, and that it was preparing for the arrival of hundreds of thousands more. Those are significant numbers, even in the context of the 1.5 million refugees who've fled to Turkey in the past three-and-a-half years.

Turkish authorities said they were ready to deal with the influx. "We have been prepared for this," disaster management agency spokesman Dogan Eskinat said.

Last night, heavy clashes broke out between the Islamic State group and Kurdish fighters only a few miles from Kobani.

IS was bombarding villagers with tanks, artillery and rocket launchers, said Nasser Haj Mansour, an official at the defence office.

"They are even targeting civilians who are fleeing," Haj Mansour said.

Turkey closed the border crossing in Kucuk Kendirciler to Turkish Kurds "to prevent Kurdish fighters from entering Syria".

Clashes broke out as Kurds trying to approach the crossing from inside Turkey scuffled with security forces, which attacked crowds with tear gas.

hnews@herald.ie

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