18 April 2014, Friday
Today's Zaman

At least 46 killed in Hatay blasts, attackers linked to Syrian regime

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In one of the deadliest attacks in Turkey in recent years, two car bombs exploded near the border with Syria on Saturday, killing 46 people and wounding 51 others.

Turkish officials blamed the attack on a group linked to the Syrian regime, and a deputy prime minister called the neighboring country's intelligence service and military "the usual suspects."

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

One of the car bombs exploded outside 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 from the war-torn country.

Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said the assailants were from Turkey, but were linked to Syria's intelligence service. "We have to a great extent completed our work toward identifying the assailants," he told reporters. "We have established that the organization and assailants have links to the pro-regime al-Mukhabarat [intelligence] organization." He did not name the group. 

The death toll rose throughout the day as many of the injured had been critically wounded.

A third, small blast caused panic in the town hours after the twin car bombs, but local reporters said it appeared to have come from a car engine or building's 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 46 and injured more than 50 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 and armed organizations are the usual suspects in the planning and carrying out of such devilish plans," he said.

Arınç said Turkey would "do whatever is necessary" if it is proven that Syria is behind the attack.

Turkey's Cihan news agency said the military began deploying a large number of air and ground military reinforcements to Reyhanlı along the border after the blasts.

In Reyhanlı, smoke poured from charred ruins after the blasts outside the 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 blasts with locals reportedly attacking Syrian-plated cars and Syrian refugees. Recent weeks have been marked by increasing ill feelings between Turks and Syrians in the district, with at least one fight breaking out between Turkish and Syrian youth. Following the fight, the Turkish group carried Turkish flags around the city and protested the presence of the Syrians.

The United States strongly condemned the attacks and vowed support in identifying those responsible, while NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius voiced "full solidarity" with Turkey.

The US Embassy in Ankara issued a statement condemning the "murderous attack" in Reyhanlı and said Washington "stands with the people and government of Turkey to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice."

The main Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, condemned the attack and said 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.

Turkey's opposition criticized the government's policy on Syria, saying its active support of the opposition had put the country's security at risk.

"Erdoğan's discourse of hatred toward Assad and provocations against the administration in Damascus is coming back to us in the form of attacks and provocations," said Devlet Bahçeli, chairman of a nationalist opposition party.

The force of Saturday's explosions gutted some buildings, and the charred shells of cars littered the streets.

"Three buildings partly collapsed and became unusable," Talat Karaca, who witnessed the second explosion from his rooftop, told The Associated Press by telephone. "We couldn't approach the scene for a long time because of the blaze."

Khawla Sawah, the medical director of the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations in Reyhanlı, said the town's main hospital was full and many of the wounded were taken to the nearby city of Antakya and to a clinic set up by the Syrian medical relief group on Reyhanlı's outskirts. The center received 11 wounded, including one Turk and 10 Syrians.

She said some of the injured told her that the cars that exploded had Syrian license plates.

Both Sawah and another witness, Suzan Alhasoğlu, said the incident raised tension in Reyhanlı with angry youths attacking Syrians cars and other targets.

"The authorities are asking Syrians to stay home and not drive around in Syrian cars," Sawah said. "Syrian doctors at the Reyhanli hospital were asked to go home too."

Turkey's military released a statement condemning the attack while 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 may be involved in such attacks."

"Another sensitive issue is that Hatay province is on the border with Syria, and 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 had 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-kilometer frontier, and is struggling to keep up with the influx.


If you sponsor terrorists this is what you get! Erdogan needs to stop being a slave of Israel.
It won't work. These problems are the direct result of the policies of the Turkish government. They allow the 'Free Syrian Army' to operate from Turkey. They have allowed explosives of all sorts to circulate in Turkey. They have lost control of their own border area with Syria. Now they hope to s...
This is the 3rd provocation. The mortars falling, the other border gate bomb and the bullets into Turkey. We did nothing! We need to strike Syrian military targets and help overthrow this idiot by giving air support to rebels. A bomb into Assad's bunker airshafts would be nice. i would like to se...
Eric Turk in Usa
erdogan should ask for compensations. the sad truth is that today turkey can do NOTHING against Assad. the reasons are political and military. turkey cannot clash with Syria Iran Hezbollah unless NATO gives a green light. and we all know the color of the lights that comes from NATO.
People wake up in the morning.. go out on daily doings...people far and and apart of world events...most with no political role...just shopping...talking...living...and they don't return home...they never will...what kind of a world is this ?....
What do you expect is going to happen in the most backward places on earth when filthy clueless governments play with fire? It is always the innocent people who get hurt. The leaders get dumber and their barking gets louder. After all, filth begets filth and misery.
The only link with Syria is that these are the same terrorists that have been attacking Syria through Turkey.Now that they are losing they want Turkey to get involved. Turkish citizens must stop their govt from collaboration with these terrorists.
I want to give my gratitude of sorrow for my Turkish brothers and sister who lost love once, today's barbaric attacks. Whoever did this kin of crime will go heal fire insha allah. Mohammed raghe
Mohammed Raghe
It looks very much like an inside job as Turkey is desperately looking for a pretext to stage an invasion into Syria. Good luck, but don't be surprised if you are defeated and Turkey turns into rubbles like Syria.
It is a tragedy anywhere innocent people are killed by terrorists, and I feel deeply grieved. However, the chickens have come home to roost for this Zio-American agent called Erdogan.The other two agents in Qatar and Saudi Arabia will be next.
The question is how Syrian Military spies entered and how they obtained this much explosives in Turkey. That shows a security failure. If it is and it looks like it is Syrian military then that should be the last straw. We need to give the rebels more weapons and more AIR SUPPORT so they don't bo...
Eric Turk in Usa
Syrian terrorist rebellion would do anything to involve foreign power into the Syrian conflict. They have used sarin gas and accused the government, kill innocent civilians and accuse the government, bomb allies like Turkey and accuse Syrian government, They would do anything to take over Syria. And...
Ismail Aljazaeri
@ WeAllKnow: Actually Arabs in Israel enjoy a much better life than Kurds did for decades in Turkey. They were allowed to speak their language, had their own universities, parties, unions etc. Most of them would never think of living under Hamas or Fatah rule! And glad to hear that no (Kurdish) baby...
It is very obvious and predictable that Bashar Assad's sectarian mafia, which has loyalists and agents inside Turkey, have decided to engage in a campaign of terror, sabotage, and public intimidation inside Turkey for two reasons 1) To make the mass murderer Assad look like a capable tyrant who is s...
Zack Jalamani
Time for Erdogan to call the Turkish military and defend the southern border. He should of course, bring back all of the talented generals he removed, so Turkey will succeed...
Amit Michaeli
Ben Yacob we all know how you reacting, killing babies, unarmed women and children. Yes we all know how it is... But its just not fit us.
Syria and its supporters have zero interest in expanding this war. This is logical. The only one that wants Turkey to get involved are the so called rebels, or the zionists who want Turkey to do their dirty war. Didn't Netenyahu say the only reason he apologized was so Turkey
This is a provocation to see Turkey's pulse.
This is what happens when you support Jihadist Syrian opposition instead of the Kurdish people you call "brothers". It is very likely the FSA or fractions within it carried out this attack. After all, they walk free there and they want Turkey dragged in to the war. Id doesnt make any sense for Syria...
I am shure it is the MOSAAD. "There is no Muslims terrorists...."(Erdogan)
"Erdogan Friend"
Thoughts and prayers are with the families affected by this cowardly attack. Some people will be pleased by this tragedy, including some posters on her but Turks are a resolute people and are used to provocations like this.
the turks will find who did it InshaAllah there's no turning back for turkey now continue on your path and don't look back
Condolences to the families and friends of all those hurt in these terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, Turkey is now paying for its dangerous foreign policy. There will be the usual conspiracy theorists that will insanely accuse Israel and the USA. But it is clear that this was carried out either by t...
Just like it happened in Israel. You dont know who your friends are.
Aga Field
Poor Turkey will call now NATO to do what a proud country must do in such case, by herself, to find those who did it and make the balance for their act, like Israel react when the HAMAS, Turkey's supported terrorist organization shell Israel. But for that you need the Israeli know-how.
Ben Yacob
Don’t jump to first conclusions here! There are outside agencies seeking to stoke up the tensions between Syria and all her neighbors! The whole bloody morass throughout the Middle East has destabilized and emasculated all opposition to Israel! The tragedy is that is that it has all been accomplish...
Mehmed II
Most likely Hizbollah or al-Qaeda, they both have an interest in seeing this conflict widening. May be the PM or FM could explain again what they meant with a "zero problems" foreign policy??
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