Reuters International

By Humeyra Pamuk

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish court sentenced three members of Islamic State to more than 120 years in jail on Wednesday for the 2014 killing of a truck driver and two security force personnel, a lawyer for one of the victims said.

Since the attack, seen as the first by Islamic State inside the country, Turkey has become a target for the militant group, which was blamed for two suicide bombings in Istanbul this year.

Turkey, a NATO member and part of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, has previously come under fire from its Western partners, who said it was not doing enough to monitor its 900 kilometre (560 miles) border with Syria and prevent Islamic State members from crossing into its territory.

Ankara has beefed up security over the last year, especially as Islamic State has repeatedly attacked its border towns.

The men sentenced - a German, a Macedonian and a third man, Cendrim Ramadani - entered Turkey illegally from Syria in March 2014 and were travelling to Istanbul in a taxi when they opened fire on security forces at a checkpoint near the southern city of Nigde, according to a court indictment seen by Reuters.

A member of the gendarmerie and a police officer died and eight members of the gendarmerie were injured in the shoot-out, according to the indictment, which said the truck driver was killed after the three men hijacked his vehicle.

The trio, who were captured within 24 hours of the incident, were handed fines and sentences by the Nigde court ranging from 124 to 179 years in jail for murder and attempting to topple the constitutional system by force, Ali Cil, the lawyer representing the truck driver, told Reuters.

In his testimony to the prosecutor, German national Benyamin Xu said he had met Ramadani and Macedonian Muhammad Zakiri in Syria where they spent about nine months at an Islamic State training camp, according to the court documents.

Xu alleged Ramadani had opened fire on both the gendarmerie and the truck driver, according to the documents.

There was no testimony from Ramadani or Zakiri included in the documents seen by Reuters. Ramadani's nationality was not clear as he was alternately referred to as a Swiss and Serbian national in the documents.

Police seized rifles, guns and hand grenades in their vehicle at the scene of the attack, the documents said.

The men said they were en route to Macedonia at the time of the shoot-out, although the prosecutor alleged in the indictment that they had been plotting an attack in Istanbul.

A fourth man, who according to the indictment was linked to the others, was sentenced to 13 years in jail on charges of fraud and membership of a terrorist organisation, Cil said.

It was not immediately clear if any of the men planned to appeal against the sentences.

(Editing by David Dolan and Alexander Smith)

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