Turkey sees Assad hand in bombings

Nine men held over twin car bombings that killed 46 people in border town

Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan said around 20 people were killed in explosions in the southern town of Reyhanli near the border with Syria today and that the death toll may rise, with many seriously wounded. Photograph: Ihlas News Agency/Reuters

Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan said around 20 people were killed in explosions in the southern town of Reyhanli near the border with Syria today and that the death toll may rise, with many seriously wounded. Photograph: Ihlas News Agency/Reuters

Sun, May 12, 2013, 11:09

Turkey said today it believed fighters loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad were behind twin car bombings that killed 46 people in a Turkish border town.

Foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said those involved in the bombings in Reyhanli yesterday were thought also to have carried out an attack on the Syrian coastal town of Banias a week ago, in which fighters backing Assad were reported to have killed at least 62 people.

"The attack has nothing to do with the Syrian refugees in Turkey, it's got everything to do with the Syrian regime," Mr Davutoglu said in an interview on TRT television.

"We should be careful against ethnic provocations in Turkey and Lebanon after the Banias massacre," he said.

However, all nine people detained over the bombings were confirmed today as Turkish citizens.

Syrian information minister Omran Zubi denied any Syrian involvement and rejected what he called "unfounded accusations".

The Syrian conflict, now in its third year, has inflamed a confrontation between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the Middle East, with Shia Iran supporting Assad, and Sunni powers like Saudi Arabia backing the rebels.

Banias is a Sunni pocket in the midst of a large Alawite enclave on Syria's Mediterranean coast, and activists in the area accuse militias loyal to Assad, an Alawite, of ethnic attacks.

Reyhanli also has a significant Sunni population, including thousands of Syrians, and has become a logistics base for the rebels fighting Assad just over the border.