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22 Jul, 2012 17:05

Turkey deploys ground-to-air missiles to Syrian border

A train carrying several batteries of missiles and troop carriers has arrived in the southeast Turkish city of Mardin, the Anatolia state news agency reports. The move comes a month after Syria downed a Turkish jet for violating its airspace.

The convoy included at least five transport vehicles carrying missiles, according to footage released by the NTV news channel. In June, Ankara deployed a number of tanks and military vehicles to the borderline Diyarbakir province, while missile batteries were stationed in the Hatay province to the west of the Syrian border.  The latest move comes as Syrian rebels reportedly took control of three border posts with Turkey. Some of the fighters believed to be in control of the Bab al-Hawa post claimed allegiance to al-Qaeda, while others identified themselves as members of a group called Shura Taliban. The border posts were taken over as part of a rebel offensive against government forces. The brunt of the attack was concentrated on regime strongholds such as Aleppo and Damascus.Relations between Turkey and Syria have been worsening since the beginning of the uprising last year. Turkey has been host to a number of meetings between the fragmented Syrian opposition, and Istanbul is the base of the Syrian National Council (SNC), recognized by a number of Western powers as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Last month, Syria shot down a Turkish F-4 Phantom jet, saying it had violated its airspace. Damascus also offered an apology for the incident and the subsequent death of the two pilots. Turkey, however, said the downing of the jet was an act of aggression on Syria’s part, claiming the plane did not cross the border on purpose, and was shot down without warning after flying back into international space. Ankara then called a NATO meeting over the incident. The alliance condemned the incident, but did not take any serious actions against Syria.Following the incident, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government now regarded Syria as a “clear and immanent threat.”