BEIRUT — The death toll from a pair of car bombs Saturday in the southern Turkish town of Reyhanli has risen to at least 40, according to authorities and news reports, the latest apparent example of spillover violence from the conflict in nearby Syria.
More than 100 people were injured, with 29 in critical condition, the Turkish interior minister, Muammer Guler, told reporters.
The blasts reportedly caused panic in the town, where there have been tensions between Syrian refugees and Turkish residents. Reyhanli, in Hatay province, is just a few miles from the Syrian border and has been a magnet for Syrian refugees. The town is also a hub for Syrian rebels.
The midafternoon blasts were caused by a pair of bomb-laden cars, Guler told reporters. Other reports indicated that three or four bombs had detonated. The town's municipal building was heavily damaged, reports indicated.
The BBC quoted local media saying that, following the blasts, Turkish residents attacked Syrian refugees and cars with Syrian license plates. Some Turks have objected to the influx of Syrian refugees and fear the region being dragged into the Syrian conflict.
Footage from Reyhanli showed a chaotic scene of blasted debris, buildings with blown-out windows and dazed survivors amid smoking rubble.
Turkish authorities immediately linked the attacks to the ongoing civil war in Syria, where the conflict is now in its third year and has cost more than 70,000 lives, according to United Nations estimates.
“Those who for whatever reason attempt to bring the external chaos into our country will get a response,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said from Berlin, reported the English-language website of Turkey's Today’s Zaman newspaper.
The foreign minister labeled the attack a “provocation,” adding: “There may be some powers who want to sabotage peace in Turkey.”
Turkey, which shares a more than 500-mile border with Syria, has been a major backer of Syrian rebels fighting to oust President Bashar Assad. Arms and fighters for the rebel side regularly enter Syria from Turkish territory.
Saturday’s blasts are the first reported major violence in Reyhanli. But a car bomb in February killed 13 and wounded more than a dozen others at the nearby Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Turkey and Syria.
The violence in Syria has regularly spilled over onto Turkish soil.
In October, an apparently errant mortar hit the Turkish border town of Akcakale, killing five Turkish civilians. The Turkish military then began responding with artillery rounds fired into Syria whenever shells from Syria side land on the Turkish side.
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