Turkish army holds military exercise near Syrian border

Turkey's military on Wednesday tested its tanks' speed and maneuverability during an exercise in Turkey's southeastern border near Syria, reported the Anatolia news agency.

The exercise comes after Turkey sent a convoy of tanks, weapons and ground-to-air missile batteries to the border with Syria, strengthening its defenses there as intensified on the other side of the border.

About 25 tanks were involved in Wednesday's exercise in the Nusaybin district of Mardin province, only two kilometers from the border, said Anatolia.

"This is a military exercise. This is a routine exercise which will continue for a couple of days," local governor Turhan Ayvaz told the agency.

Turkey has been boosting its military presence on the border after a Turkish Phantom jet was shot down by Syria on June 22.

Last week Ankara sent a train convoy carrying several batteries of ground-to-air missiles to several army units deployed on the border. They moved as rebels seized several posts on the Syrian side of the countries' 900-kilometer border.

The Turkish build-up also comes after the Syrian city of Ifrin, north of Aleppo and near the Turkish cities of Kilis and Islahiye, fell into the hands of Democratic Union Party (PYD).

The PYD is a Syrian branch of outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), according to rebel sources.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that it was a "given" that Turkish troops would pursue fleeing PKK militants inside Syria, warning that Ankara would not hesitate to strike "terrorists."

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was set to leave for northern Iraq later Wednesday for talks with Iraqi Kurdish leaders over the situation in Syria.

He will also be discussing reports that some regions in northern Syria had fallen to Kurdish rebels.


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