Two massive car bombs ripped apart the centre of Reyhanli, a small Turkish town near the Syrian border on Saturday May 11th.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said today that the death toll had risen to 46 with more than 100 injured. It is expected that there will be more deaths for some for the 56 still in hospital.
As of this morning, 38 victims have been identified, three of whom are Syrian citizens.
The huge blasts damaged some 500 shops, 300 homes and 60 vehicles. Power has been cut to the town. Interior Minister Muammer Guler says that the explosions were probably caused by car bombs.
Police were quickly on the scene in numbers. Nine people have already been arrested including the alleged mastermind of the operation. While all those arrested are Turkish citizens it is felt that there is a Syrian connection. Both the Interior Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have stated that the bombs were carried out by terrorists in close contact with Syria’s intelligence agency.
Turkey has firmly sided with the Syrian opposition since the uprising against Assad’s regime erupted in March 2011, hosting its leaders along with rebel commanders and providing refuge to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.
The bombings marked the biggest incident of cross-border violence since the start of Syria’s bloody civil war and have raised fear of Turkey being pulled deeper into the conflict.
Previous incidents have included the deaths of Turkish citizens in cross-border artillery fire, a car bomb in February that killed 14 people on the border and the shooting down of a Turkish jet by Syrian antiaircraft guns.
Turkey, which shares a 565-mile border with Syria, has been a crucial supporter of the Syrian rebel cause and has allowed its territory to be used as a logistics base and staging centre for Syrian insurgents. It has hosted its leaders along with rebel commanders and provided refuge to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.
There have been many calls to respond to the attacks. Turkey’s leaders vowed to punish those responsible but also called for restraint. “We have to be extremely calm against all kinds of provocations that are trying to pull us into the swamp in Syria,” Prime Minister Erdogan said in Istanbul. Turkish President Abdullah Gul also called for people to “be vigilant to provocations,” while Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, a Hatay deputy, said the attacks “were intentional.”
Following the blast, angry residents attacked Syrian refugees and cars with Syrian number plates.