Damascus Denies Responsibility for Turkey Bombings

Damascus on Sunday denied accusations it was behind twin car bomb attacks that left at least 46 people dead in a Turkish town near the Syrian border, as Ankara arrested nine people in the probe.

Cranes were seen lifting debris from buildings destroyed by Saturday's blasts in Reyhanli, one of the main Turkish hubs for Syrian refugees and rebels.

The attack was the deadliest to hit Turkey since the Syria conflict began two years ago and apparently provoked a backlash against Syrian refugees as dozens of Syrian cars were wrecked by what local people said were rampaging crowds.

Ankara was quick to blame the Syrian regime for the bloodshed, a claim rejected by Damascus on Sunday.

"Syria did not commit and would never commit such an act because our values would not allow that," Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi said at a press conference broadcast by state television.

"It is (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan who should be asked about this act... He and his party bear direct responsibility," he added.

On Saturday, Turkey's Interior Minister Muammer Guler said the government had identified the attackers.

"We have established that they are linked to groups supporting the Syrian regime and its intelligence services," he told national TRT television.

On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay announced Sunday that "nine people have been held for questioning" over the bombings, adding there have been confessions.

Huseyin Celik, vice president of Turkey's ruling AKP party, said on NTV television meanwhile that the twin blasts had killed at least 46 people and left 51 in hospital.

Turkey, a member of NATO, distanced itself from its erstwhile ally soon after Syrian President Bashar Assad started cracking down on pro-democracy protests in 2011.

Ankara has since become a rear base for the Syrian rebellion and Damascus has already been blamed for a string of attacks on Turkish soil.

Atalay said the perpetrators of Saturday's attacks did not appear to have crossed into Turkey from Syria but were already in the country.

Guler said the regional governor had been sent to Reyhanli "to put the necessary security measures in place".

The attack sowed panic in Reyhanli, a town of about 60,000 people.

"I heard the first blast, walked out, thinking it was a missile being fired from Syria. Then I found myself on the ground, my arms and right leg hurting, my ears ringing. It must have been the second bomb," said Hikmet Haydut, a 46-year-old coffee shop owner who survived the blast with minor injuries to his head and body. "I am alive, but all I have is gone," he added.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, on a visit to Berlin, said it was "not a coincidence" that the bombings occurred as international diplomatic efforts to solve the Syrian crisis were intensifying.

"Nothing will go unanswered," added Davutoglu, vowing the culprits would be brought to justice.

The United States and Russia, one of the few remaining supporters of Assad's regime, pledged this week to relaunch efforts to solve the conflict, which the United Nations estimates has killed 70,000 people since March 2011.

Source: Agence France Presse

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