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Turk Army Fires on Islamists at Border as Rebels Flee

(Corrects headline, lead, third paragraph to show fleeing fighters are Syrian rebels.)

Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Turkish artillery opened fire on al-Qaeda-linked Islamic fighters across the border as scores of Syrian rebels entered Turkey, the army said.

Howitzer units fired four salvos at positions of the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham after a mortar round from the Azaz area landed close to the Turkish army border post at Demirisik, near the town of Kilis, on Oct. 15, the military said on its website yesterday, adding that the round did not explode.

Some 85 armed members of the rebel North Storm Brigade, which is linked to the Free Syrian Army, turned themselves in to Turkish forces at Demirisik on the same day, the army said, without saying whether the Islamists were firing at the men.

Hours after the cross-border exchanges, fighting erupted in northern Hassaka province between Kurdish nationalists and Islamists, leaving 41 dead including militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham and the Nusra Front, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on its website yesterday, citing local activists.

Islamic fighters linked to al-Qaeda have increasingly asserted control along border areas with Turkey. The al-Tawhid Brigade has deployed tanks seized from the Syrian army to fortify its positions at the Es Selame border crossing near Kilis in Turkey, the military said, citing defecting Syrian soldiers.

Turkey has firmly denied backing radical Islamic fighters, while acknowledging that it’s aiding members of the Free Syrian Army in their struggle to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. On Oct. 1, he used a Turkish television interview to accuse Turkey of aiding the flow of Islamist fighters into Syria.

To contact the reporter on this story: Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara at shacaoglu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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