Drones and ditches as Turkey tightens border after Islamic State bombing

Turkey is erecting a modular wall along part of its border with Syria as well as reinforcing wire fencing and digging extra ditches after a suspected Islamic State suicide bombing killed 32 mostly young students in a border town this week, Reuters reports.

Turkey’s NATO allies have long expressed concern about control of its border with Syria which in parts runs directly parallel with territory controlled by Islamic State. A suicide bombing on Monday in the southeastern town of Suruc highlighted fears about Syria’s conflict spilling onto Turkish soil.

“Critical sections (of the border) have been identified. Priority will be given to these areas and measures will be taken with all technological capabilities,” Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bulent Arinc told reporters during a break in a cabinet meeting late on Wednesday.

Thousands of foreign fighters are thought to have travelled through Turkey to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in the past few years, some of them with assistance from Turkish smuggling networks sympathetic to the militants.

The government’s critics say it is acting too late.

A senior government official told Reuters that a 150 km “modular wall”, which can broken down into parts and reassembled elsewhere, would be set up along part of the border, while wire fencing in other parts would be reinforced.

Flood-lighting would be installed along a 118 km stretch, while border patrol roads would be repaired, a package of upgrades which would cost around 230 million lira ($86 million), the official said.

The armed forces were also digging a 365 km long ditch along the border and have deployed some 90 percent of drones and reconnaissance aircraft to the Syrian border, the military said.

Turkey’s armed forces have already stepped up security along parts of the border in recent weeks, as the conflict in Syria involving Kurdish militia fighters, Islamist militants and Syrian security forces intensified.

Around half of the armoured vehicles which patrol Turkey’s borders are along the Syrian frontier, the official said. Half of the 40,000 military personnel who guard Turkey’s borders – including with Iraq, Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Greece and Bulgaria – are now on the Syrian frontier.

Photo from Hurriyet Daily News