Turkish government blames Marxists with Syrian connections for bombings

Story highlights

Turkey's government believes some of its own citizens are behind the attacks

The bombs killed 47 people and wounded about 100, Turkish officials say

Syrian official denies that his nation had any involvement

Tensions run high as Syrians flee across border to escape civil war

Reyhanli, Turkey CNN  — 

Rage grew in a Turkish town on Syria’s border Monday in the aftermath of weekend bombings as the government blamed Marxists with Syrian connections for the deadly attacks.

Gathered before the ruins left when two explosive-laden cars went off Saturday, residents of Reyhanli called on Turkey’s government to step down, alleging that it has gotten their country too involved Syria’s troubles.

Hours later, rescuers pulled another corpse from the rubble and placed it in a black body back for transit, said CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman. It brought the death toll to at least 47. Another 100 or so have been injured, authorities have said.

The Turkish government places the blame for the attacks on local perpetrators.

“For the time being, there is no evidence suggesting that al Qaeda was involved,” Interior Minister Muammer Guler told Turkey’s state news agency, Anatolia.

The nine suspects in custody are all Turkish nationals, he said. Guler and other Turkish officials accuse a former Marxist terror group that they say maintains relations with Syria’s intelligence services.

The U.N. Security Council condemned the violence.

“The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed,” a written statement from the Security Council said.

Sunday anguish

Funeral prayers echoed across Reyhanli on Sunday.

The families of the dead huddled under umbrellas in the town cemetery to lay their loved ones to rest, while others cried in streets still strewn with broken glass and twisted metal.

Of the 50 people who remained hospitalized late Saturday, 29 were in critical condition, Guler said.

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As they bury their dead and watch efforts to recover more bodies, local residents fear that more violence from the conflict raging in the neighboring country will spill over into the town.

Some resent the flood of refugees that Ankara’s generosity toward Syrians fleeing the violence has brought on.

Turkey is trying to accommodate nearly 300,000 refugees from Syria’s 2-year-old civil war, according to the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, and the attacks fueled anger at some of the Syrians who have taken shelter in Reyhanli.

One Syrian trying to talk to CNN was stopped by two men on a motorcycle yelling, “Don’t talk to them” and “Go away.” They yelled at the Turkish man hosting Syrian refugees, “How can you let them talk?”

One Reyhanli resident, Abu Marwan, said Saturday that people began grabbing sticks and “going after Syrians” in the aftermath of the bombings.

“We almost have more Syrians here than Turks, and people are getting angry,” he said.

Syria’s information minister, Omran al-Zoubi, said the Damascus government was “saddened” by the deaths. But he denied that his country had any involvement and said Turkey was to blame for allowing rebel fighters – whom Damascus dubs “terrorists” – to operate from its territory.

“He added that the Turkish government has been facilitating the delivery of weapons, explosive devices, car bombs, money and killers into Syria,” the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said of al-Zoubi.

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Blasts struck government buildings

The first blast occurred at about 1:55 p.m. Saturday at Reyhanli’s city hall. A second, more powerful blast occurred in front of the post office.

Marwan said the bombings left “body parts everywhere.”

“Buildings and the walls of buildings are collapsed,” he said. “The windows, the cars, everything is burned around it, people are burned. So many injured. The scene is outrageous, may God grant us peace.”

The blast drew swift condemnation internationally, including from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who vowed that Washington will “stand with our ally Turkey.”

Syrian opposition group: Regime fires shells toward Reyhanli

The Local Coordination Committees for Syria, an opposition group, has reported that Syrian government forces had fired several shells in the direction of Reyhanli, which is in Turkey’s southern province of Hatay.

Several Syrians were among the casualties, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, another opposition group.

The town’s location “carries sensitivity,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday, according to the semiofficial news agency Anadolu.

“Around (20,000) to 25,000 Syrians live here in camps as our guests. Certain steps as in Reyhanli today may be taken to affect the sensitivity in Hatay by those not willing to accept the status quo.”

The conflict in Syria has repeatedly spilled across the border to Turkey, prompting Turkish security forces to reinforce the frontier. At Turkey’s request, the NATO military alliance deployed several Patriot missile batteries to protect Turkish border cities from the threat of Syrian missile attacks.

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This story was reported by Gul Tuysuz in Rehanli and reported and written by Matt Smith in Atlanta. CNN’s Tom Watkins and Talia Kayali contributed to this report.