REYHANLI: Turkey was reeling on Sunday from twin car bomb attacks which left at least 43 people dead in a town near the Syrian border, with Ankara blaming pro-Damascus groups and vowing to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Rescuers have begun the search for possible survivors buried underneath the rubble of buildings destroyed by the blasts on Saturday in Reyhanli, one of the main Turkish hubs for Syrian refugees and rebels.
Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay confirmed that the twin blasts had killed at least 43 people and wounded 100 more, many of whom were said to be in critical condition.
“The people and the organisation who carried out this attack have been identified,” Interior Minister Muammer Guler told national TRT television.
“We have established that they are linked to groups supporting the Syrian regime and its intelligence services,” he said.
Turkey, a member of NATO, distanced itself from its erstwhile ally soon after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad started cracking down on pro-democracy protests in 2011.
Ankara has since become a rear base for the Syrian rebellion and Damascus has already been blamed for a string of attacks on Turkish soil.
Atalay said the perpetrators of Saturday’s attacks did not appear to have crossed into
Turkey from Syria but were already in the country.
Guler said the regional governor had been sent to Reyhanli “to put the necessary security measures in place.”
The attack sowed panic in Reyhanli, a town of about 60,000 people, leading to tensions between youths and Syrian refugees and forcing police to fire into the air to disperse the crowd.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, on a visit to Berlin, said it was “not a coincidence” that the bombings occurred as international diplomatic efforts to solve the Syrian crisis were intensifying.
“It is not a coincidence that this should happen in a period where there is an acceleration of efforts on Syria in the whole world,” he told reporters.
“Nothing will go unanswered,” added Davutoglu, vowing the culprits would be brought to justice.
The United States and Russia, one of the few remaining supporters of Assad’s regime, pledged this week to relaunch efforts to solve the conflict, which the United Nations estimates has killed 70,000 people since March 2011.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will soon visit Russia for talks with President Vladimir Putin, officials said on Saturday, amid a flurry of diplomatic activity.