Border guards unhurt in shooting

Four Greek border guards and two German commandos dispatched to the Greek-Turkish frontier by Frontex, the European Union?s border monitoring agency, emerged unscathed on Friday after four suspected Turkish people smugglers opened fire on them with hunting rifles.

The smugglers had been preparing to disembark a group of nearly 100 would-be migrants onto an islet in the River Evros, which forms part of Greece?s land border with Turkey, when they spotted two police patrol vehicles on the Greek side of the border.

The suspects fired their guns in the air first, presumably as a warning for the Greek-German contingent to retreat. Seeing no reaction, the smugglers started firing at the two vehicles which were a few hundred meters away.

Neither the Greek border guards nor the Frontex officials returned fire but contacted the Turkish police by radio to inform them of the incident. Turkish authorities reacted quickly, arresting a group of 97 people including the suspected smugglers. The ethnic origin of the would-be migrants remained unclear.

Speaking to Kathimerini, the head of the Evros police officers? union, Constantinos Hatzianagnostou, said yesterday that the number of illegal immigrants entering Greece via the Evros River has increased to more than 100 per day following a brief lull.

Earlier this week, Citizens? Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis said that a European Union-subsidized project to build a fence along the Greek-Turkish border to keep out would-be migrants was moving forward. The minister also heralded the construction of several new migrant reception centers.

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