Car blast kills at least 10 on Turkey-Syria border

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 February, 2013, 11:35pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 February, 2013, 12:28am

At least 10 people were killed and dozens wounded when a car exploded on Monday near the border between Turkey and Syria, officials said, although the cause was not immediately clear.

A Syrian-registered car is believed to have been at the centre of the blast in a buffer zone at the frontier, a foreign ministry official told reporters, adding that the likelihood of it being a terrorist attack was “51 per cent”.

The official said the dead included four Turks and six Syrians.

Dozens of ambulances were dispatched to the scene at the Cilvegozu border crossing near the Turkish town of Reyhanli in the southern province of Hatay.

The official said the blast that happened barely 40 metres into the buffer zone from the Cilvegozu crossing triggered a fire that damaged around 15 humanitarian aid vehicles.

“There are up to 50 wounded people, so the number of dead could go up,” the official said.

Television footage showed plumes of smoke rising from the parking lot and body parts could be seen scattered across the site.

Another Turkish foreign ministry official said the explosion did not appear to have been caused by a mortar but that a suicide bomber might have been involved in the blast that smashed apart the gates at the crossing, opposite Syria’s Bab al-Hawa post.

“It is too early to make a conclusion as the enquiry is still going on,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The car was believed to have been parked at a crowded lot filled with trucks ready to leave for war-torn Syria with humanitarian supplies, he added.

The explosion comes after a suicide bomber attacked the US embassy in Ankara on February 1, killing a Turkish security guard and wounding three others.

That attack was claimed by a radical Turkish Marxist group classified as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and the United States.

Monday’s blast also came less than three weeks after Nato declared that a battery of US-made Patriot missiles had become operational on Turkey’s border with Syria.

Several other batteries of the surface-to-air missiles have also been dispatched by Nato allies Germany and the Netherlands to protect Turkey from a possible spillover of the conflict in Syria.

Dozens of mortar shells have landed on Turkish soil in recent months, including a deadly incident in October when five Turkish civilians were killed by Syrian shelling.

Turkey requested help from its Nato allies after the shellings, which it reciprocated systematically by firing mortars into Syria.

In another deadly attack, a car bomb exploded near a police station in the southeastern city of Gaziantep in August, killing nine people, four of them children, and injuring dozens more. The blast was blamed on Kurdish rebels, who denied responsibility.

Turkey, a one-time Syria ally which is now vehemently opposed to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, has taken in close to 200,000 of refugees from the conflict which has killed more than 60,000 Syrians in nearly two years, according to UN figures.