World Bulletin/News Desk
At least 45 people were killed and dozens of others were injured when two explosions shook a Turkish town on Saturday near the border with Syria.
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 Reyhanlı, a main hub for Syrian refugees and opposition activity in Turkey's Hatay province, just across the border.
The death toll rose throughout the day as many of the injured were critically wounded.
A third, small blast caused panic in the town hours after twin car bombs, but local reporters said it appeared to have been caused by a car engine or building boiler room.
Images showed people frantically carrying victims through the rubble-strewn streets to safety. Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç linked the blasts that killed at least 45 and injured more than 100 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 regime," he said. "Reyhanlı 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.
Arinç said Turkey would "do whatever is necessary" if proven that Syria is behind the attack.
The Cihan news agency said the military began deploying huge number of air and ground military reinforcements to Reyhanlı on the Syrian border after the blasts.
In Reyhanlı, smoke poured from charred ruins after the blasts outside administrative buildings.
"My children were so scared because it reminded them of the bombings when we were in Aleppo. God help us," said one refugee, a mother of three who gave her name as Kolsum.
Tensions ran high in the district after the blast with locals reportedly attacking Syrian-plated cars and Syrian refugees. Tensions have already been high in the district for a couple of weeks. Recently, Syrian youths got into a fight with Turkish youths in Reyhanlı, which hosts a large number of Syrian refugees. Following the fight, the Turkish group carried Turkish flags around the city and protested the presence of the Syrians.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu 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. Davutoğlu called the incident an act of “provocation,” saying “there may be some powers who want to sabotage peace in Turkey.”
In initial comments, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan condemned the attack.
“I would like to send a message to my brothers in Reyhanlı. We have recently launched a settlement process [to address the conflict in the southeast] and those who cannot digest this new period and the atmosphere of freedom in our country can be involved in such attacks."
"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.
Erdoğan said this week that Turkey would support a US-enforced no-fly zone in Syria and warned that Damascus crossed President Barack Obama's "red line" on chemical weapons use long ago.
A no-fly zone to prohibit Syrian military aircraft from hitting rebel targets has been mentioned by American lawmakers as one option the United States could use to pressure Assad.
Erdoğan is due to meet Obama in Washington on May 16.
Turkish President Abdullah Gül warned citizens against provocations after the deadly Reyhanlı blasts while opposition parties urged the government to review its Syria policies.
Violence has spilled over the border before.
In February, a minibus blew up at a border crossing near Reyhanlı, killing 14 people and wounding dozens more.
The Syrian opposition said one of its delegations appeared to have been the target of that attack, but there has been no confirmation of this from the Turkish authorities.
In October, five Turkish civilians were killed in Akçakale when a mortar bomb fired from Syria landed on their house, prompting Turkey to fire back across the frontier.
Turkey is sheltering more than 300,000 Syrians, most of them in camps along the 900-km (560-mile) frontier, and is struggling to keep up with the influx.
RELATED TO AL-MUKHABARAT
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay stated that the works related to the perpetrators of the Reyhanli blasts were about to be completed, and those who have conducted the blasts were related to al-Mukhabarat, a pro-Syrian administration organization.
"Their license plates have been detected. The atrocious incident is not related to Syrian refugees or the Syrian opposition," added Atalay.Last Mod: 12 Mayıs 2013, 09:44