Turkey makes arrests in attacks blamed on Syria | News | DW | 12.05.2013
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Turkey makes arrests in attacks blamed on Syria

Authorities have detained nine Turks believed to have links to Syria in connection with bombs that killed 46 people. Elsewhere Sunday, Syrian rebels freed peacekeepers captured on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The nine detained included the mastermind of the attack, said Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler, who added that he expected more arrests. Saturday's blasts have raised concern that Syria's bloody civil war is crossing into Turkey.

"This incident was carried out by an organization which is in close contact to pro-regime groups in Syria and I say this very clearly, with the Syrian mukhabarat," Guler said, using the Arabic word for intelligence. "We have determined that some of them were involved in the planning, in the exploration and in the hiding of the vehicles," he added.

The two explosions, just 15 minutes apart, occurred Saturday outside the post office and town hall in Reyhanli, a hub for Syrian refugees and rebel activity in Turkey's Hatay province. At least 46 people were killed in the blasts and about 100 injured. So far, three of those killed in the attack have been identified as Syrians.

Trading accusations

Turkish authorities determined that the nine were involved through their "testimonies and confessions," Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said, though he did not elaborate.

Earlier Sunday in Damascus, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi rejected Turkey's charges that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime had anything to do with the bombs.

"Syria didn't and will never undertake such acts because our values don't allow us to do this," al-Zoubi told a news conference. He added that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan "has to step down: He must not build his glory on the blood of Turks and Syrians."

The opposition National Coalition alleged that the regime had ordered the attacks to drive a wedge between Turks and Syrians.

"What happened in Reyhanli ... proves the extent of this murderous regime's criminality, and of the danger it poses to its neighbors, peace and stability in the region," the National Coalition alleged. Earlier on Sunday the opposition group had called the bombings "a desperate and failed attempt to sow discord" with Turkey, which hosts at least 326,000 Syrian refugees.

'Their safe release'

In news related to another Syrian border, Philippines Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario told the news agency Reuters on Sunday that four UN peacekeepers, all Filipinos, had been released. Syrian rebels detained them May 7 on the Golan Heights as they patrolled close to an area where the same group held 21 observers, also Filipinos, for three days in March.

Watch video 01:36

Turkey makes arrests after bombing

In a statement, UN Secretary-General Koffi Annan said that he appreciated "the assistance of Qatar and of others involved in securing their safe release," and emphasized "to all parties the impartiality of United Nations peacekeepers."

The rebel Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade had announced that it had taken the peacekeepers into custody for their own safety after clashes in the area put them in danger. The rebel group had no immediate announcement after the peacekeepers' release on Sunday.

mkg/dr (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)