- Borislav Ivanov
Bulgarian border guard killed on the Turkish border, Interior Ministry arms officers
A policeman has been killed in a shootout near the border with Turkey, the Interior Ministry said. The deceased was a 35-year-old border guard. He was shot in the head.
The case is unprecedented, though according to people familiar with conditions at the border, it is not surprising. It was only after the border policeman's death that troops were ordered to carry long guns on duty. The attitude of the officers will change, Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev said.
"In this case, it is a matter of extreme aggression. So far, we have tried to ensure that our officers carry out their duties without causing unnecessary harm to people trying to cross the border. But with such aggression escalating to the use of firearms, from now on, we will respond with the necessary force, and I assure you that if there are incidents, they will not be in the direction of our officers," he said.
Military Minister Dimitar Stoyanov, for his part, insisted on thinking about building a concrete wall along the border with Turkey. The current metal fence was built during the second GERB government and cost more than 200 million leva, but the general opinion is that it does not help much in stopping the migrant flow.
Ivan Demerdzhiev; Credit: Iskra.bg
Puncturing the fence
The shooting took place around 20:35 on Monday. The shots were produced by a currently unknown person in the area of the village of Golyam Dervent, near Elhovo, Yambol Province. The deceased border guard was on patrol with a serviceman. The soldier was not injured.
The military man and the policeman got out of the car they were patrolling in because they saw that the border fence had been cut, Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Petar Todorov explained. The shooting started the moment the border guard pointed the lantern at the hole. The military man managed to take cover and responded by shooting. According to him, there were 10-15 shots from the opposite side, after which the group of people fled to the interior of Turkey.
In response, the Interior Ministry announced that it was stepping up security measures for officers. As per the IGP's order, police officers will now carry long guns.
Todorov also called for legislative changes because, currently, sentences for illegal border crossing are suspended en masse. The Criminal Code does not consider this crime to be serious, and usually, defendants have a clean criminal record and are therefore punished with three years of probation and five years of suspension.
"This leads to a sense of impunity in these people," the chief secretary said.
The nearest police units have been directed to the scene. It is believed that the shots were fired by a migrant trafficker. No illegal migrants were found at the spot.
"The Turkish border authorities have been informed about the incident and a meeting has been made at the state border line to identify and apprehend the perpetrator. It is assumed that the perpetrator is on Turkish territory," the Interior Ministry said.
Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev commented that the Turkish authorities have promised that everything will be done to apprehend the perpetrators. Police presence has been stepped up on their side, he said.
Breakthroughs in the fence are daily, the interior minister added. He said the facility was not fit to keep the policemen who were literally stopping the migrant onslaught with their bodies.
The Home Secretary also admitted to the communication and armament problems. However, he said work was being done to fix them. Demerdzhiev said that he had given instructions to respond to the shooting with gunfire during a visit to Elhovo a month ago. However, there has been no such case so far.
"There have been repeated cases of attempts to attack our people with melee weapons. None of such attempts succeeded, so they responded adequately, but in this case, we are talking about firearms used from ambush, in a situation where it is very difficult to protect one of our officers," the minister said.
He said body armor was not an adequate solution because it was heavy, and people were on patrol all day. He pointed out that the deceased officer was shot in the head i.e. body armor would not have saved him.
A random attack
According to military minister Dimitar Stoyanov, it was an accidental event. He pointed out that the serviceman did not retreat as the Interior Ministry claimed. The MoD chief said that in such cases, officers could respond to the shooting.
He commented that the fence on the border was not a reliable facility. He said the cameras could not even target Turkish territory where the migrants were coming from.
"We have to think about a new barrier that is concrete and over 3 meters high," he told bTV.
The killing of the border policeman took place amid expectations that our country would get the green light for Schengen. For months, the interior minister has claimed that Bulgaria is ready and fulfills all the criteria.
"This is really an unprecedented case not only for the Bulgarian border but also for the European one," former deputy foreign minister Milen Keremidchiev told bTV.
According to him, this is a very serious case from a European point of view. He commented that Bulgaria should urgently take measures and urgently request additional forces from the European border agency - Frontex.