Death toll rises to 40 as explosions hit Turkish town on border with Syria

Several explosions have hit the southern province of Hatay’s Reyhanlı district on the Turkish-Syrian border. DHA photo

Several explosions have hit the southern province of Hatay’s Reyhanlı district on the Turkish-Syrian border.

The death toll from suspected twin car bombs that hit the southern province of Hatay’s Reyhanlı district on the Turkish-Syrian border has risen to 40, Turkish Interior Minister said today. At least 100 people were injured, 29 of whom are in critical condition, he added.

The town center of Reyhanlı, which is hosting many Syrians fleeing the conflict in the Arab republic, was the target of deadly explosions at around 1:45 p.m. local time. Bombs were set off near the municipality, causing major damage to buildings in the town center. A wooden building close to the municipality collapsed following the explosions, while power has reportedly been cut in the town.

The explosions were likely caused by two cars filled with explosives, Güler told reporters in his first remarks after the attacks, but other reports indicated that there were three or more explosions. Güler also said they had preliminary information about the source of the attacks. Police took heavy security measures after the explosions.

The explosions caused massive panic in Reyhanlı, leading many locals to try and leave town, according to reports. Scuffles were also reported between locals and Syrians, as tensions had been mounting ahead of the attacks.

Assad regime ‘Usual suspect’: Deputy PM

Meanwhile, Turkish politicians warned against provocations and suggested that the attack might have been aimed at Turkey’s ongoing peace process.

“We have started a resolution process in our country, and there are those who don’t accept this new era,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said after the attacks.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said Syria could be behind the attacks. “Bashar al-Assad with his Mukhabarat [Syrian intelligence agency] is the usual suspect in planning and carrying out such an attack,” Arınç said.

“If it is proven that al-Assad is responsible [for the attack], we will do what is necessary,” he said.

Turkish President Abdullah Gül also called for people to “be vigilant to provocations,” while Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, a Hatay deputy, said the attacks “were intentional.”

Speaking during a visit to Germany, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the timing of the attack was not a coincidence. “The diplomatic traffic [on Syria] is intensifying,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Turkish opposition called on the government to review its Syria policy while condemning the attacks. “The government should review its internal and foreign policy,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said in a statement.

For his part, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli said Turkey’s border security was under threat, while blaming the peace process and the government’s position regarding Syria.

Reyhanlı was hit by another deadly attack in February at the Cilvegözü border gate that killed 14. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but a Syrian opposition faction accused the Syrian government of the bombing, saying it narrowly missed leaders of the group. Turkish authorities that led the investigation into the bombing had said the Syrian suspects taken into custody worked with Syria’s intelligence service

(Source / 11.05.2013)

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