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AFP

Turkey opens border
to Syrian Kurds

ANKARA - Turkey on Friday opened up its border to thousands of Syrian Kurds fleeing clashes with Islamic State (IS) insurgents in neighboring Syria, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

 

"We will take in our brothers fleeing to Anatolia from Syria or any other place without any ethnic or sectarian discrimination," Davutoglu told reporters in Azerbaijan.

 

"The entries have started now," he said. "We have taken in 4,000 brothers. The number might increase. Their needs will be met. This is a humanitarian mission."

 

The move came after Ankara, which is sheltering some 1.5 million refugees from the Syrian conflict, refused to take in more fearing it would not be able to cope. 

 

"As long as Turkey remains strong, and has a capacity, it will help everyone seeking refuge," the prime minister said.

 

Live television footage showed Syrian Kurds, mostly women and children, crossing to the Turkish side of the border in the southeastern village of Dikmetas, under tight security. 

 

Exhausted refugees carrying bags over their heads were handed food and water, as children cried on their laps, according to the live broadcast by CNN-Turk television. Some women fainted, the footage showed.

 

An elderly woman in wheelchair standing was seen waiting behind Turkey's security force to cross the border, while a Turkish soldier held the hand of a child. The security forces appeared to be expanding the corridor to allow easier passage for the Syrians.

 

Syrian Kurds have been massing since Thursday on the other side of the border amid escalating clashes between the Islamic State group and Kurdish fighters.

 

Sounds of gunfire were still being heard in Dikmetas, in a sign of ongoing clashes, reports said. 

 

Ankara, a vocal critic of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, has maintained an open-door policy to Syrian refugees. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said this week however the army was mulling the prospect of setting up a buffer zone along the volatile border.