|Part of Syrian–Turkish border incidents during the Syrian civil war|
|Location||Reyhanlı, Hatay Province, Turkey|
11 May 2013 |
|Dual car bombings|
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,|
Turkish citizens with alleged links to Syrian Mukhabarat and Syrian Resistance.
The Reyhanlı bombings took place on 11 May 2013, when two car bombs exploded in the town of Reyhanlı, Hatay Province, Turkey. At least 51 people were killed and 140 injured in the attack. The attack was the deadliest single act of terrorism to occur on Turkish soil.
By 12 May 2013, nine Turkish citizens had been detained; Turkish officials alleged they had links to the Syrian intelligence agency. On 21 May 2013, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported that the Turkish authorities had charged the prime suspect. Four other suspects were also charged, and others to a total of 12 people. All suspects were Turkish nationals that Ankara believed to be backed by the Syrian Mukhabarat.
On 30 September 2013, several Turkish media outlets—including Mynet.com, Aydinlinkdaily.com, and Today's Zaman—published that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the al-Qaeda group operating in Iraq and Syria, had claimed responsibility for the attack, threatening further terror attacks against Turkey. Following the bombings, hundreds of Syrians felt constrained to flee Reyhanli, and some residents blamed the Turkish government for bringing the war in Syria to the town.
Reyhanlı is located in the far south of Turkey, close to the Syrian border. Many Syrian refugees have passed through the town while fleeing from the civil war in their own country. The nearby Cilvegözü–Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing, which is controlled on the Syrian side by rebels, is the busiest crossing point between the two countries.
On 3 October 2012, mortar fire from Syria killed five people in the Turkish border town of Akçakale. Earlier, on 11 February 2013, the gate of the Cilvegözü–Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing was the scene of a deadly attack, when an explosion killed 17 people and injured 30 more.
Two car bombs were left outside Reyhanlı's town hall and post office. The first exploded at around 13:45 EEST (10:45 UTC), and the second about 15 minutes later. People attempting to help those injured in the first explosion were caught in the second blast.
A Cumhuriyet journalist reported controversy over the number of fatalities. It was suspected by some[which?] news sources that government and local officials had instructed local health care workers to limit the death toll to 50, while the real number was 177.
While some Syrian refugees were caught in the blasts, the majority of the fatalities involved were local Turks. Although there is still no information about the names of the dead, local officials revealed their nationalities, that 5 of 52 people killed by the attacks were Syrian.
There was widespread panic in Reyhanlı following the blasts, with many people attempting to flee the town. Clashes also broke out between Turkish and Syrian people in Reyhanlı, and police were forced to intervene by firing into the air to disperse the crowds. Turkish residents of the town reportedly attacked Syrian refugees and automobiles with Syrian license plates.
BBC Journalist Wyre Davies reported from the site of the bombings in Reyhanli that there was 'real anger' among the people on the streets, not just against whoever had carried out the attacks but also against the government in Ankara. Hundreds of Syrian refugees had been forced to leave, 'scapegoats for the crimes of others' in Davies' account, blamed for bringing the Syrian war to the town. The refugees were held to have made the town a target for Assad's agents in Turkey. The media also were unpopular. "Whoever carried out the bombings has deliberately and successfully driven a wedge between two communities who had always coexisted, even before the war, because of cross-border trade and other historic ties."
In response to the attacks, the Turkish government sent large numbers of air and ground forces increasing the already heavy military presence in the area.
The Reyhanlı Court of Peace ordered all voice, written, and visual publications referring to the blasts' aftermath banned, including content describing, and images of, the injured and the dead. The court ruled that the written and visual content would jeopardize the confidentiality and outcome of the ongoing prosecution. On 16 May 2013, the Hatay First Criminal Court cancelled the order issued by the Reyhanlı Court of Peace. Only the state-run Anatolia news agency and Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) were allowed to cover visits by Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin and Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu to the injured in Antakya State Hospital. When the main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, of the Republican People's Party (CHP), visited the victims at the same hospital on Monday, only reporters from Anatolia and TRT were allowed to cover Kılıçdaroğlu's visit, while reporters from the Cihan News Agency, the İhlas News Agency and the Doğan News Agency were not allowed to do so.
Protesters clashed with police in the town on Saturday, 18 May, voicing their anger over the government's response to the attack and its decision to take in Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict.
Turkey sealed the border with Syria for one month in order to stop possible suspects from escaping.
On Wednesday, 25 May, the local hacker group RedHack published documents about the attack and claimed that they belonged to the Gendarmerie intelligence department. The documents indicated that the bombing was planned by al-Qaeda-related rebel groups in Syria, contrary to the government's claims. JDP vice president Hüseyin Çelik stated that the documents were not obtained by hacking but were leaked, and that their content was not related to the Reyhanlı bombings but to another, unrelated one, for which precautions had been taken. On 24 May, Private Utku Kali was arrested and charged with leaking the documents. RedHack denied any involvement by Kali. Kali was released on 11 November.
The perpetrators of the car bombings in Reyhanlı are not known, but Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has said those who carried out the attacks have links with the Syrian regime. According to Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, Syrian refugees have become a target of the Syrian regime and Reyhanlı was not chosen by coincidence. "Their Mukhabarat [the Syrian intelligence agency] and armed organizations are the usual suspects in planning and the carrying out of such devilish plans." Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said, "There may be those who want to sabotage Turkey's peace, but we will not allow that. No one should attempt to test Turkey's power. Our security forces will take all necessary measures." Speaking in Berlin, he said that the bombings were a consequence of global inaction in intervening in the Syrian civil war. Authorities suspected that Mihraç Ural, now thought to be based in Syria, might have revived the former Marxist group Acilciler and ordered the attack. Acilciler, led by Ural, was active in Turkey during the 1970s and 1980s and was "long rumored to have been formed by the Syrian intelligence agency."
Mehmet Ali Ediboğlu, a Turkish MP, blamed the Syrian rebel Nusra Front for the attacks. Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu held Erdogan accountable for the bombings and compared him to Syria's president Assad. Erdogan threatened to sue him in response. Turkish hacker group RedHack leaked some documents reportedly belonging to the Gendarmerie intelligence department that claimed that an anti-regime group in Syria with links to al-Qaeda was planning a car bomb attack and this might take place in Turkey. "One cable revealed details of several vehicles loaded with bombs and explosives to be delivered to pro-al-Qaeda groups in Syria," and indicated that "the bombs and explosives might be used in a plot against Syria."
Several media unions protested the media ban imposed on the Reyhanlı bombings and appealed to the courts to remove the ban immediately. The media ban was condemned by several journalistic organizations in Turkey. Atilla Sertel, the chairperson of the Journalists Federation of Turkey, stated that such bans would cause cause major misinformation and would result in misleading the public. The Press Institute Association of Turkey claimed the court order upholding the ban was a censure and a major blow to press freedom.
On 27 March 2014 Tacan İldem, Turkey's OSCE representative, said that al-Qaeda elements operating from Syria had carried out the attack. However, the Turkish foreign ministry released a statement denying the claim, stating, "There is no doubt that the Reyhanlı attack was carried out with support from the Syrian regime. Consequently, reports, expressions and attempts aimed at creating a perception as if there are contradicting statements among state officials are completely invalid."
Syria officially denied responsibility for the attacks. Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi stated, "Syria did not commit and would never commit such an act because our values would not allow that." Zoubi further said, "We were saddened by the martyrs' deaths [on] Saturday in the town of Reyhanlı." In response to accusations, Mr. Zoubi placed responsibility on the Turkish authorities and said, "it was the Turkish government that had facilitated the flow of arms, explosives, vehicles, fighters and money across the border into Syria", and thus "had turned the border areas into centres for international terrorism".
The UN Security Council strongly condemned the Reyhanli bombings, stating, "Any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed." NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also condemned the attack, calling it "despicable", and said that NATO stood by Turkey.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a Twitter statement saying, "My thoughts are with family and friends of the victims. We stand with the people of Turkey." United States Ambassador Francis Ricciardone stated that the U.S. "strongly condemns today's vicious attack, and stands with the people and government of Turkey to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice."
Investigations have revealed that Ankara was the initial target of the recent attacks in Reyhanlı, according to Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay. On 20 May, five new suspects were arrested. Turkish officials were accused of destroying evidence and imposing blanket censorship about the event.
In July 2013, several MİT intelligence officials were dismissed for negligence, after an inquiry concluded that MİT had had sufficient information to prevent the attack, but had failed to share it with police quickly enough.
- Syria–Turkey relations
- Hurriyet daily news, 27 May 2013
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- CNN News
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- Syria denies link to Turkey car bombs
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- The Role of Turkey in the US-NATO-Israeli War on Syria Turkey's False-flag Operation against Syria Backfires: The Reyhanli bombing attacks in a larger context, Global Research, 29 May 2013
- Today's Zaman, 14 Jul 2013, MİT provincial chief sacked over unshared intelligence in Reyhanlı attack
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