Turkey: 42 killed in blasts near Syr­ian bor­ders

Two car bombs explode in Turk­ish town near Syr­ian bor­der, leav­ing 40 dead, dozens more wounded. Erdo­gan says blasts may be related to con­flict in Syria or Turkey’s peace process with Kurds.

In one of the dead­liest attacks in Turkey in recent years, two car bombs exploded near the bor­der with Syria on Sat­ur­day, killing 42 and wound­ing 140 oth­ers. A senior Turk­ish offi­cial blamed Syria, call­ing the neigh­bor­ing country’s intel­li­gence ser­vice and mil­i­tary “the usual sus­pects.”

The blasts, which were 15 min­utes apart, raised fears that Syria’s bru­tal civil war vio­lence was cross­ing into its neighbor.

One of the car bombs exploded out­side the city hall while the other went off out­side the post office in the town of Rey­hanli, a main hub for Syr­ian refugees and rebel activ­ity in Turkey’s Hatay province, just across the bor­der. Images showed peo­ple fran­ti­cally car­ry­ing vic­tims through the rubble-​strewn streets to safety.

The United States strongly con­demned the car bomb­ings. “The United States strongly con­demns today’s vicious attack, and stands with the peo­ple and gov­ern­ment of Turkey to iden­tify the per­pe­tra­tors and bring them to jus­tice,” US Ambas­sador to Turkey Fran­cis Ric­cia­r­done said in a statement.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Bulent Arinc said about 40 peo­ple were killed and 100 oth­ers wounded in the blasts and linked them to Syria. There was no imme­di­ate infor­ma­tion on the iden­ti­ties or nation­al­i­ties of the victims.

“We know that the Syr­ian refugees have become a tar­get of the Syr­ian régime,” he said. “Rey­hanli was not cho­sen by coincidence.”

“Our thoughts are that their mukhabarat (Syr­ian intel­li­gence agency) and armed orga­ni­za­tions are the usual sus­pects in plan­ning and the car­ry­ing out of such dev­il­ish plans,” he said.

Arinc said Turkey would “do what­ever is nec­es­sary” if proven that Syria is behind the attack.

Prime Min­is­ter Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan ear­lier also raised the pos­si­bil­ity that the bomb­ings may be related to Turkey’s peace talks with Kur­dish rebels meant to end a nearly 30-​year-​old conflict.

“We are going through sen­si­tive times, we started a new era, the Kur­dish issue solu­tion process. Those who can­not digest this new era … could take such actions,” Erdo­gan said in com­ments broad­cast on Turk­ish television.

“Another sen­si­tive issue is that Hatay province (where the explo­sions occurred) is on the bor­der with Syria, these actions may have been taken to pro­voke those sen­si­tiv­i­ties,” he said. 

Syr­ian mor­tar rounds have fallen over the bor­der before, but if the explo­sion turns out to be linked to Syria it would be by far the biggest death toll in Turkey related to its neighbor’s civil war.

Syria shares a more than 500– ​mile bor­der with Turkey, which has been a cru­cial sup­porter of the Syr­ian rebel cause. Ankara has allowed its ter­ri­tory to be used as a logis­tics base and stag­ing cen­ter for Syr­ian insurgents.

For­eign Min­is­ter Ahmet Davu­to­glu vowed from Berlin that Turkey would act.

“Those who for what­ever rea­son attempt to bring the exter­nal chaos into our coun­try will get a response,” he said.

The main Syr­ian oppo­si­tion group, the Syr­ian National Coali­tion, con­demned the “ter­ror­ist attacks” in Rey­hanli, say­ing it stands together with the “Turk­ish gov­ern­ment and the friendly Turk­ish people.”

The coali­tion sees “these heinous ter­ror­ist acts as an attempt to take revenge on the Turk­ish peo­ple and pun­ish them for their hon­or­able sup­port for the Syr­ian peo­ple,” it said.

Rey­hanli is a cen­ter for aid and alleged weapon traf­fick­ing between Turkey and Syria, as well as for Syr­ian rebel activ­ity. Apart from refugees liv­ing in camps, many Syr­i­ans escap­ing the civil war have also rented houses in the town.

The explo­sions came days before Erdo­gan is sched­uled to travel to the US for talks, which are expected to be dom­i­nated by the sit­u­a­tion in Syria.

“This … will increase the pres­sure on the US pres­i­dent next week to do some­thing to show sup­port to Turkey when Erdo­gan vis­its him in Wash­ing­ton,” said Soner Cagap­tay, an expert on Turkey at the Wash­ing­ton Insti­tute. “Wash­ing­ton will be forced to take a more pro-​active posi­tion on Syria, at least in rhetoric, whether or not there is appetite for such a posi­tion here.”

Abdul­lah, a Rey­hanli res­i­dent, told The Asso­ci­ated Press he heard two strong explo­sions at about 1 p.m. “The bombs were very pow­er­ful,” he said by telephone.

The fron­tier area has seen heavy fight­ing between rebels and the Syr­ian régime. In Feb­ru­ary, a car bomb exploded at a bor­der cross­ing with Turkey in Syria’s Idlib province, killing 14. Turkey’s inte­rior min­is­ter has blamed Syria’s intel­li­gence agen­cies and its army for involvement.

Four Syr­i­ans and a Turk are in cus­tody in con­nec­tion with the Feb. 11 attack at the Bab al-​Hawa fron­tier post. No one has claimed respon­si­bil­ity, but a Syr­ian oppo­si­tion fac­tion accused the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment of the bomb­ing, say­ing it nar­rowly missed 13 lead­ers of the group.

In that bomb­ing, most of the vic­tims were Syr­i­ans who had been wait­ing in an area strad­dling the fron­tier for pro­cess­ing to enter Turkey.

Ten­sions also flared between the Syr­ian régime and Turkey after shells fired from Syria landed on the Turk­ish side, prompt­ing Ger­many, the Nether­lands and the United States to send two bat­ter­ies of Patriot air defense mis­siles each to pro­tect their NATO ally.

 

Source: Ynews

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