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Syria refugee flood hits 130,000

The number of Syrian refugees who have reached Turkey in the past four days after fleeing the advance of Islamic State (IS) militants has reached 130,000.

Turkey's deputy prime minister warned that the number could rise further but insisted that Turkey was ready to react to "the worst case scenario".

"I hope that we are not faced with a more populous refugee wave, but if we are, we have taken our precautions," said Numan Kurtulmus. "A refugee wave that can be expressed by hundreds of thousands is a possibility."

The refugees have been flooding into Turkey since Thursday, escaping an IS offensive that has pushed the conflict close to the Turkish border.

The conflict in Syria has pushed more than a million people over the border in the past three and a half years.

The al Qaida breakaway group has established an Islamic state, or caliphate, ruled by its harsh version of Islamic law in territory it captured straddling the Syria-Iraq border.

In recent days it has advanced into Kurdish regions of Syria that border Turkey, where fleeing refugees on Sunday reported atrocities that included stonings, beheadings and the torching of homes.

"This is not a natural disaster ... What we are faced with is a man-made disaster," Mr Kurtulmus said. We don't know how many more villages may be raided, how many more people may be forced to seek refuge. We don't know.

"An uncontrollable force at the other side of the border is attacking civilians. The extent of the disaster is worse than a natural disaster."

As refugees flooded in, Turkey closed the border crossing at Kucuk Kendirciler to Turkish Kurds on Sunday in a move aimed at preventing them from joining the fight in Syria.

A day earlier, hundreds of Kurdish fighters had poured into Syria through the small Turkish village, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Later, clashes erupted along the border near the town of Suruc, with Turkish police firing tear gas and water cannon to disperse Kurds protesting against the government or demanding to reach Syria.

Turkey has previously been reluctant to take part in international efforts against the IS group, citing the safety of 49 citizens taken hostage in June when the Islamic group overran the Iraqi city of Mosul.

But on Saturday, Turkey secured the hostages' release but would not say how. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denied paying a ransom but has been vague on whether there was a prisoner swap.

US secretary of state John Kerry said today the United States now expects Turkey to step up in the fight against the militants.

Fighting raged today between Kurdish fighters and the militants near the northern Syrian city of Kobani, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Parts of the city are within a mile of the Turkish border.

The Observatory said the militants have lost at least 21 fighters since Sunday night, most of them on the southern outskirts of Kobani.


From Belfast Telegraph