16 detained over car bombing in Turkey's Reyhanlı

Published 07.07.2019 20:23
Updated 08.07.2019 15:15
IHA Photo
IHA Photo

Police arrested 16 suspects Sunday in connection with the car bombing in the Reyhanlı district of Turkey's southern Hatay province which killed three people.

Police carried out operations in the city center, as well as the Reyhanlı and Iskenderun districts to arrest the suspects sought with warrants, said sources from governorate due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

The suspects were taken to the police department for questioning.

A car carrying a bomb exploded Friday in the town center of Reyhanlı, which borders Syria, killing three Syrian nationals.

Hatay Gov. Rahmi Doğan said two Syrian nationals inside the car were killed in the explosion and the subsequent fire, and one other person was injured, who later died at the burn unit in Iskenderun State Hospital.

The blast took place some 750 meters away from the district governorate building in the town center. Initial reports said that the car, registered in Syria and bearing a temporary Turkish license plate, was parked when the blast happened, but it was later revealed that it was on the move.

It was claimed that the target of the bomb-laden vehicle was people leaving Friday prayers at the nearby Fatih Sultan Mehmet Mosque located some 50 meters away from the blast scene.

Reyhanlı borders Syria and the town center lies to north of the border, while the Cilvegözü border gate, a main crossing into Syria, is some five kilometers away. The district has been home to a large population of Syrian refugees since the conflict erupted in Syria.

On May 11, 2013, a bomb-laden vehicle was detonated in the Reyhanlı town center first, killing scores and causing destruction. A second vehicle was detonated five minutes later after dozens, including civilians, first-aid units and security forces, had rushed to the area to help those wounded in the attack.

In addition to killing 53 people and injuring dozens of others, the attack devastated the district, damaging 912 houses, 891 businesses and 148 vehicles. It was the deadliest attack in the country at the time.

Pundits claimed that the Assad regime sought to hit the Syrian opposition inside the borders of their main supporter Turkey, and Reyhanlı, as one of the main concentration centers of opposition groups, was chosen for the attack. It was also claimed that by targeting predominantly Sunni Turkmens and the Arab town of Reyhanlı, the regime sought to ignite ethnic tensions inside Turkey and specifically Hatay, where a significant Alawite population lives.

Three months earlier on Feb. 11, 2013, a bomb-laden vehicle brought in Syria was detonated inside the no man's land that lies between the Cilvegözü and Bab al-Hawa border gates, killing 18 people and wounding 24 others.

Later in 2017 and early 2018, the town was targeted by the PKK's Syrian offshoot, the People's Protection Units (YPG) terrorist group, in mortar and rocket attacks launched from positions in Syria's northwestern Afrin district. One person was killed and several others were injured in the attacks, which also targeted Kilis and Gaziantep provinces bordering Syria. Soon after, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch, clearing the area of PKK and YPG militants.

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