Turkish pilgrims attacked in Syria, reports say

Two buses carrying Turkish pilgrims came under fire in neighboring Syria early Monday as they were travelling back from the hajj in Saudi Arabia, leaving two people injured, reports said.

The "armed attack" occurred between the flashpoint cities of Hama and Homs, Turkey's semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.

Private NTV and CNN-Turk television stations, citing unconfirmed claims, said the attack was carried out by "Syrian soldiers" when the buses took a wrong turn near Homs.

"We confirm that an attack took place in Syria," a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told AFP, without giving any further information.

But he added: "We repeat our warning to citizens not to visit Syria."

Tensions have been running high between Syria and Turkey as Ankara has become increasingly vocal in its criticism of President Bashar al-Assad's bloody crackdown on protests against his regime.

One pilgrim and the bus driver were injured, media reports said.

"We were a convoy of eight to nine buses. First we saw a red car carrying four people. They fired at us from there," injured pilgrim Cemil Karli, 50, told Anatolia.

"We don't know who attacked and why... We could have died," adding that the buses managed to continue through to the Turkish border.

Syrian opposition umbrella group the Local Coordination Committees issued a statement in Nicosia saying that two buses had come under fire and published a video online showing the aftermath of the attack.

"Military and security forces open fire on two buses of a Turkish company heading towards Turkey via the Bab Hawa border crossing, injuring some of the Turkish travellers," it said.

The video showed several shattered windows in one bus, and one person being carried on a stretcher by ambulance staff.

Turkey, once a close ally of Syria, has stepped up the rhetoric against the regime over its deadly crackdown on protesters. Last week it announced a halt to joint oil exploration and threatened to cut electricity exports.

Turkey's diplomatic missions also came under attack by pro-government demonstrators in several Syrian cities earlier this month after Ankara voiced support for the Arab League's suspension of Syria.

After the attacks, Turkey demanded a formal apology from Syria, warning its citizens not to travel there unless absolutely necessary.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

For live updates on the Syrian uprising, follow @NOW_Syria on Twitter or click here.