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Armenian Farmer Gives First-Hand Report of How He Fled Kessab: BBC

A member of the Armenian community of Kassab in Syria spoke to the BBC about how he was forced to flee from his town several days ago.

"For about the last 3 years we have civilians that keep a lookout to protect our town. They noticed in the middle of Friday night that the Turkish army which was on the border left the area. Kessab is very close to the Turkish border. 

"Around 4 am, trucks carrying armed militants started coming from the Turkish side. We heard gunfire and the militants attacked Syrian government police posts near the town around 5:30 am. They started using mortars against these police posts. We heard lots of explosions near the villages close to the Turkish border. 

"We didn't know at that point who these militants were. After 6:30, people started understanding what is going on, and they started moving away from the center of the town. We left our homes without being able to take anything with us. I didn't even have time to change my clothes before leaving. We got a few clothes and took our travel documents with us. We moved further away from town center and gathered in a village further away with our cars and motorcycles. Some people went straight to Latakia. But some others thought that the conflict will be over soon and they stayed in the villages away from the town center. 

There was gunfire and rockets coming from the Turkish side of the border. I had with me my children, my 88-year-old father, and my mother, who has cancer. We were one of the first people who left the town. We didn't have many problems travelling to Latakia. We went through many villages of different ethnicities. There has never been any conflict in our area until very recently. 

"More people left Kassab for Latakia after 24 hours. The point where we all met was an Armenian church in Latakia. Armenians in Latakia have been hosting us in their houses. 

"There are still some 50 elderly people who stayed in the town. When I tried to contact our neighbors in the town from their landline phones, they were answered by some people who didn't speak local Arabic. They were telling us 'God is great' in Arabic. I heard that there were some Tunisian and Chechen militants among them."

Kessab, an Armenian-populated town in northwestern Syria, was the target of militant attacks, resulting in a max exodus of its inhabitants. Earlier, Asbarez.com reported that 80 people had died as a result of the armed incursion. There is no official information regarding the number of Armenian deaths.