x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Syrian war spills over into Turkey with bloody car bomb attack

Explosion in area being used as a carpark for vehicles delivering aid kills 12 in the bloodiest cross-border incident since the Syrian uprising began. Thomas Seibert reports from Istanbul

The scene after a car explosion in Reyhanli near the Turkish-Syrian border crossing point in Hatay, which killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens.
The scene after a car explosion in Reyhanli near the Turkish-Syrian border crossing point in Hatay, which killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens.

ISTANBUL // A car bomb killed at least 12 people at a crossing on the border between Turkey and Syria yesterday. It was the bloodiest incident on the border since the Syrian uprising began nearly two years ago, officials said.

The explosion, which happened at 3pm local time, killed Turks and Syrians in Turkey's territory between Turkish and Syrian checkpoints at the Cilvegozu crossing near the town of Reyhanli in the southern Hatay province.

Bulent Arinc, a spokesman for the Turkish government, said three of the dead were Turks. He added that 28 people were injured in the blast, 13 of them seriously.

Mr Arinc said the bomb had been in a minivan with Syrian licence plates. Turkey's ministers of justice, the interior and for customs and trade were preparing to visit the site of the blast last night.

Adnan Korkmaz, the director of the customs and trade authority in Turkey's eastern Mediterranean region, said the explosion took place in an areathat was being used as a parking area for cars delivering aid to Syria. The area had been very busy in recent days, he added.

A Turkish government official said authorities had established that the vehicle containing the bomb entered from Syria about 20 minutes before the blast. He said another car from Syria had parked next to it about two minutes before the explosion, but it was not clear whether both vehicles contained explosives.

An official from Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) said the explosion was an attack, not an accident.

"It is an extremely treacherous and bad attack," said Numan Kurtulmus, an AKP deputy chairman. Turkish police closed the border gate in response to the attack.

Turkey, which is calling for the Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, to resign in the face of an uprising that has killed 60,000 people, has warned several times it would retaliate militarily if it considered its national security was threatened.

The Syrian side of the Cilvegozu border crossing was under the control of Syrian rebels fighting against the Assad regime, according to Turkish officials.

The explosion marked the most serious incident on the 900-kilometre border between Turkey and Syria since the start of the uprising.

Last October, five Turkish civilians were killed in the border town of Akcakale when an artillery shell from Syria landed on their house. Turkey responded by firing shells into Syria. In April, two Syrian refugees were killed by shots fired from the Syrian side of the border as they tried to flee into Turkey, near Kilis.

And in June, two pilots of a Turkish military reconnaissance jet were killed when it was shot down by Syria in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey has taken in around 170,000 Syrian refugees, who are housed in several camps along the border.

One of the camps is close to the Cilvegozu border crossing.

tseibert@thenational.ae

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