A Bulgarian policeman has been shot dead while patrolling the country’s border with Turkey amid an influx of people trying to cross into the European Union country, Agence France-Presse reported, citing officials on Tuesday.
Bulgaria has buttressed its 259-kilometre (161-mile) southeastern frontier with non-EU member Turkey with a barbed-wire fence, but the barrier has been damaged amid a surge of people trying to cross.
The shooting occurred late Monday near the border village of Golyam Dervent when the policeman, 30, and a soldier stopped their patrol vehicle to check a place in the fence that was cut open.
“The policeman directed his light inside Turkish territory, shots followed and he was killed. The soldier managed to take cover behind the vehicle,” Interior Ministry chief of staff Petar Todorov told journalists in the nearby town of Elhovo after visiting the site of the shooting early Tuesday.
According to the soldier’s account, some 10 to 15 shots were fired through the fence opening before a group of people withdrew back into Turkish territory, Todorov added.
“We have reassurances by the Turkish authorities that these people will be found and sent to justice,” Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev said.
Bulgaria has seen a jump in attempted border crossings this year.
While some 40,000 attempts were made in all of 2021, more than 80,000 attempts have been made in the first eight months of 2022, according to border police figures.
Since earlier this year 800 additional police and 200 soldiers have been dispatched to reinforce 1,000 border police officers patrolling the area.
Two police officers were killed in August when a bus carrying migrants rammed into their police car near the Black Sea city of Burgas, while they were trying to stop it.
Shootings along Bulgaria’s southeastern border with Turkey have been rare. An Afghan citizen was killed by ricochet in October 2015.