SOFIA (Reuters): A Bulgarian police officer was shot dead at the border with Turkiye in the southeastern part of the Balkan country in a shootout with a suspected group of migrants, Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev said on Tuesday.
The incident occurred at 8:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) on Monday, when shots were fired from Turkish territory at a border police officer and a serviceman patrolling a stretch of the border near the village of Golyam Dervent, Demerdzhiev said.
The police officer, who was inspecting a cut in the fence along the border, died on the spot. The serviceman, who was not hurt, had returned fire after hearing 10 to 15 shots and a group made up of suspected migrants had withdrawn, officials said.
“This is a criminal act, an extreme aggression … This is the first attack with firearms by migrants,” Dermendzhiev, who rushed to the site of the incident, told reporters.
“From now on, we will be uncompromising to anyone who endangers the health and life of our officers,” he said.
It was not immediately clear how large the group was, or if one or several people opened fire on the officer and soldier.
Dermendzhiev said Turkish authorities have pledged to cooperate and seek the perpetrators and that he would ask them to combat human trafficking rings more actively.
Bulgaria has deployed some 350 troops along its southern border with Turkiye and Greece to help border police combat a growing migrant influx.
Bulgaria is situated on one of the routes migrants from the Middle East and Afghanistan use to enter the European Union. Most of the migrants are not planning to stay in the bloc’s poorest member state but are looking to move on to richer countries in Western Europe.