|Part of Syrian–Turkish border incidents during the Syrian civil war|
|Location||Reyhanlı, Hatay Province, Turkey|
|Date||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 refer to incidents 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, who Turkish officials alleged have links to the Syrian intelligence agency, had been detained. On 21 May 2013, the Turkish authorities charged the prime suspect, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported. Four other suspects were also charged. 12 people had been charged in total. All suspects were Turkish nationals that Ankara believes were backed by the Syrian Mukhabarat.
On 30 September 2013, several Turkish media outlets (including mynet.com,aydinlinkdaily.com,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 Cilvegözü–Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing near Reyhanlı 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 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 identities (names) of the dead, local officials revealed the nationalities; 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 following the bombing.
BBC Journalist Wyre Davies reported from the site of the bombings in Reyhanli that there was 'real anger' among the people on the streets in the town, not just against whoever carried out the attacks but also with the government in Ankara. Hundreds of Syrian refugees have been forced to leave, 'scapegoats for the crimes of others', in Davies' account, blamed for bringing the Syrian war to the town. They have made the town a target for Assad's agents in Turkey. The media also is unpopular. "Whoever carried out the bombings has deliberately and successfully driven a wedge between the two communities who always coexisted, even before the war with cross-border trade and their historic ties."
In response to the attacks, the Turkish government sent large numbers of air and ground forces to increase the already heavy military presence in the area.
The Reyhanlı Court of Peace ordered all voice, written, and visual publications relating to the scenes of incidents after the blasts banned, including content and images of the injured and the dead. The court also ruled that the visual and written content would jeopardize the confidentiality and outcome of the ongoing prosecution. On 16 May 2013, Hatay 1st Criminal Court abolished the order which the Reyhanlı Court of Peace ruled on. However, only the state-run Anatolia news agency and Turkish Radio and Television Corporation were allowed to cover visits by Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin and Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu to the people in Antakya State Hospital who had been injured. When main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu visited the victims at the same hospital on Monday, only reporters from TRT and Anatolia were allowed to cover Kılıçdaroğlu's hospital 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 also sealed the border with Syria for one month in order to stop possible suspects from escaping.
On Wednesday 25 May local hacker group RedHack published documents about the attack, and claimed that they belong to Gendarmerie Intelligence Department. The documents indicate that the bombing was planned by Al-Qaeda related rebel groups in Syria, contrary to government's claims. JDP vice president Hüseyin Çelik stated that the documents were not obtained by hacking but leaked, and that their content is not related to Reyanlı bombings but to another unrelated one, for which precautions are made. On 24 May private Utku Kali was arrested, charged with leaking the documents. RedHack denied any involvement of 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[disambiguation needed] [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, may have revived 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. The top secret files 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 may be used in a plot against Syria.
Several media unions have protested the media ban imposed on the Reyhanlı bombings and have appealed to court 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, has stated that such bans will cause cause major misinformation and mislead the public in reference to the media ban. The Press Institute Association of Turkey have claimed the court order upholding the ban to be 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 carried out the attack. Turkish Foreign Ministry however 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 denied responsibility for the attacks with Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi saying "We were saddened by the martyrs' deaths [on] Saturday in the town of Reyhanlı".
The UN Security Council strongly condemned Reyhanli bombings, by pointing "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."
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". In response to the accusations, Mr. Zoubi placed responsibility back on the Turkish authorities and said it was the Turkish government that had fostered an area of international terrorism on the border.
Investigations have revealed the real target of the recent attacks in Reyhanlı as Ankara, 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 MIT intelligence officials were dismissed for negligence, after an inquiry concluded that MIT had sufficient information to prevent the attack, but had failed to share it with police quickly enough.
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