The bombs targeted Reyhanli's town hall and post office. Photo: EPA

Turkey slams Syria after car bombs kill 40 in border town of Reyhanli

Ankara points finger at Damascus, saying attack designed to pit town's residents against refugees


Two explosive-laden cars blew up in a small Turkish town near the border with Syria on Saturday, killing at least 40 people and wounding 100 others in one of the deadliest recent attacks in the volatile area.

Turkey's deputy prime minister said Syria's intelligence and military were "the usual suspects" behind the bombings, but said authorities were still investigating the attacks.

The bombings in the town of Reyhanli, just a few kilometres from the main border crossing into Syria, come amid increasingly bellicose criticism by Ankara of the regime in Damascus.

Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler said the explosions were caused by car bombs that blew up near the town hall and the post office in Reyhanli. Twenty-nine survivors were in a serious condition, he said.

"We know that the Syrian refugees have become a target of the Syrian regime," Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said.

"Reyhanli was not chosen by coincidence."

Rescuers were hunting for possible survivors buried underneath the rubble of buildings destroyed by the blasts.

A number of cars were also completely wrecked in the attacks, whose force caused a power cut in the area around Reyhanli, local media reported.

The attack sowed panic among residents of Reyhanli, a town of about 60,000 people, leading to tensions between local youths and Syrian refugees living locally, and forcing police to fire into the air to disperse the crowd.

Thousands of refugees who fled the Syrian crisis are living in Reyhanli and a refugee camp adjacent to the town.

Reyhanli lies in southern Turkey near the Cilvegozu crossing opposite Syria's rebel-controlled Bab al-Hawa border post, which is the busiest crossing between the two countries.

In a statement, Syria's opposition condemned yesterday's attacks, saying they were destined to pit Turks and Syrians against each other.

"The coalition sees these heinous terrorist acts an attempt to take revenge on the Turkish people and punish them for their honourable support of the Syrian people," it said.

The bombings were "a desperate and failed attempt to sow discord", the statement added.

The attacks came just two days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he believed Syria has used chemical weapons, crossing a "red line" set by US President Barack Obama.

Erdogan, who this month branded Assad a "butcher" who must be held to account for the deaths of thousands of his people, is due to meet Obama in Washington on Thursday.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Car bombs near border with Syria kill at least 40