BEIRUT

Middle East

Turkish town shocked by deaths from Syrian shelling

Local residents check on October 4, 2012 the damaged house where five Turkish civilians were killed on October 3 by a mortar bomb in the southern border town of Akcakale.AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC

AKCAKALE: A crowd of neighbours flocked Thursday to the small grey house in a poor district of the Turkish town of Akcakale which had been home to Zeliha Timucin and her three daughters,

They died Wednesday when a shell fired from Syria, just across the border and the theatre of fighting between the government and rebels, struck their house.

It shattered a low wall, smashed a washbasin and came to ground in the house's small courtyard, near an olive tree, where the mother, her sister who had come to help prepare the evening meal, and the three girls were gathered.

Neighbour Ibrahim Kahraman was shouting at adults and children alike.

"Stop walking in the courtyard," he ordered. "There are still parts of dead bodies."

Another neighbour pointed to a plastic bucket, saying in it, under a child's flip-flop, were among other things hair and a piece of tongue.

Inside the building, behind windows smashed by the explosion, hanging from a rack were the dead woman's black dress and a purple head scarf, the traditional colour of the region.

A man came, armed with a broom, to clean the courtyard.

Another neighbour, an old man with a white headdress, leaned on a wooden cane.

"I don't want to go further away," said Ali Kazra Uzun, a farmer of 85. "I've nowhere to go, my life is here.And in any case it'll soon be time to harvest the cotton and corn."

Halil, a boy of 13, knew two of the three dead girls.

"We are used to living with danger," he sighed.

Another neighbour, Ali Bayat, was badly frightened.

"We were eating as a family when a shell landed in the courtyard of our house, too," he said. "Luckily nobody was hit."

The border with Syria is less than 500 metres (yards) distant. Since mid-September the three-starred flag of the Syrian rebels has waved over the border post of Tall all-Abyad but sporadic fighting continues.

It brings with it stray bullets or misdirected shells which hit Akcakale. As a precaution the Turkish schools are closed.

The day after the shelling it was announced that members of the Turkish parliament were to visit the town. But Ali Kazra Uzun has no wish to see them.

"They are coming too late," he said. "They should have come to reassure us and see us before people died."

The people of Akcakale, most of them of Syrian origin thouugh Turkish citizens, are both shocked and angered by the war on their doorstep. Since daybreak they had gathered to discuss what had happened they day before.

Abdulkadir Guvenc, like his father born in Turkey, was among them.

"Before we all used to live together, Syrians in Syria. But at the end of World War l the town, which used to be Syrian, was cut in two," he recalled.

"The north went to Turkey, the south to Syria. My grandparents became Turkish. We don't want any more losses among civilians, or war between us."

Zeliha Timucin, her sister and the three girls were quickly buried Thursday morning in a Muslim cemetery. Akcakale has no morgue.

 

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