Driver: Turkish buses come under attack in Syria

November 21, 2011 - 6:15 AM

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Syrian soldiers opened fire on three Turkish buses, injuring two people, one of the bus drivers said Monday.

The attack occurred near the central city of Homs early Monday, driver Erhan Surmeli said by telephone from a Turkish hospital near the Syrian border, where the other bus driver, Naci Ozata, was treated for gunshot wounds.

Surmeli said the bus was carrying 25 butchers back to Turkey from Saudi Arabia following the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, or the feast of sacrifice.

"We had stopped at a checkpoint," Surmeli told The Associated Press by telephone. "Syrian soldiers emerged from behind sandbags and cursed (Turkish Prime Minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan when we told them we were Turks. Then they suddenly opened fire at the bus."

Surmeli said he heard that two other Turkish buses had come under attacks and another passenger was injured. They were able to cross into Turkey, he said.

Turkey's state-run TRT television reported that two people were injured in armed attacks inside Syria.

Syria's bloody crackdown on protesters has strained relations with Turkey, which has been outspoken in its criticism of President Bashar Assad. They have deteriorated further following a spate of attacks on Turkey's diplomatic missions.

Turkey evacuated families of diplomats as well as nonessential staff. After the attacks, the Foreign Ministry renewed a call on Turkish citizens to avoid traveling to and through Syria, NTV television said.