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LOCAL > Death toll rises to 50 as explosions hit Turkish town on border with Syria

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Several explosions have hit the southern province of Hatay’s Reyhanlı district on the Turkish-Syrian border. Hürriet Daily News photo by Emrah Gürel

Several explosions have hit the southern province of Hatay’s Reyhanlı district on the Turkish-Syrian border. Hürriet Daily News photo by Emrah Gürel

Erdem Güneş Erdem Güneş erdem.gunes@hdn.com.tr

The death toll from the twin car bombs that hit the southern province of Hatay’s Reyhanlı district on the Turkish-Syrian border has officially risen to 50, as new three bodies were retrieved from two different spots today.
 
Officials are continuing their search mission as more bodies are believed to be at the scene. Police surrounded the area, while locals have also gathered at the location.

More than 100 are injured due to the attack, 56 of whom are still being treated, Turkish Deputy Prime Ministrer Beşir Atalay said May 12.

Some 41 victims, five of them Syrians, have been identified.

Nine people linked to the deadly attack have been detained, Atalay said.

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.

The explosions were likely caused by two cars filled with explosives, Interior Minister Muammer Güler told reporters after the attacks, but other reports indicated that there were three or more explosions.

However, Güler said that the third explosion was unrelated to the twin blasts. "The third explosion was a car's fuel tank. It had nothing to do with the events," he said.

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.

Officials confirm link with Syrian intelligence

It was confirmed that the perpetrators were linked to the Syrian regime and intelligence agency, Güler was also quoted as claiming by the public broadcaster TRT. 

Atalay also claimed that the attackers were linked to the Syrian intelligence organization, known as the Mukhabarat. He added that they were from inside Turkey. “The organization is known, who they are is also known to a great extent. It is abolutely certain that [the attack] has nothing to do with Syrian refugees,” Atalay said

Al-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 in his first remarks following the explosions. 

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said Syria could be behind the attacks. “Bashar al-Assad with his Mukhabarat 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.

The BDP’s Selahattin Demirtaş 

“It is clear that the attack aimed to have a strong impact on Turkey. The fact that the incident happened in Reyhanlı brings a Syrian connection to mind, however, it will be clear once the investigation and the government’s work is done. We will have the chance to have better evaluations if those responsible are declared to the public in a speedy manner.

“It could be seen as a reflection of the Syrian civil war on Turkey, but we still need to wait for the investigations to end. The government needs to act fast on this. Is it related to the peace process currently ongoing in Turkey? That is difficult to say, but it certainly targets the political atmosphere that Turkey is currently in.”

The CHP’s Gürsel Tekin 

“The officials said about an hour after that attack that they knew who did it. If you do know, then step up. From whom are you hiding it? Who did this?

“The government needs to immediately give up on its policies on Syria. You can’t simultaneously discuss domestic peace and sound the cries of war. You cannot laugh in one eye while crying in the other. Today is Mother’s Day, and mothers in Hatay are in pain. How can you live with that?
Turkey’s foreign policies have to undergo immediate changes, or else we will not be able to prevent these problems.” 

The MHP’s Devlet Bahçeli

“All developments show that Turkey is under great threat on its borders. Syria-based provocations and attacks are on the rise, as PKK militants are freely roaming our borders. 

“There is also a clear increase in incidents that are either caused by Syrian refugees, or with which Syrian refugees are involved in. The tension in our border towns is rising, and the environment of violence and fighting is deepening. The government’s Syrian policies, aimed at global calculations and plans, have cost our citizens lives and material costs, harming and hurting them.”



May/11/2013

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