Twin car bombs killed 43 people and wounded many more in a Turkish town near the Syrian border on Saturday and the government said it suspected Syrian involvement.
The bombing increased fears that Syria’s civil war was dragging in neighbouring states despite renewed diplomatic moves towards ending two years of fighting in which more than 70,000 people have been killed.
The bombs ripped into crowded streets near Reyhanli’s shopping district in the early afternoon, scattering concrete blocks and smashing cars in the town in Turkey’s southern Hatay province, home to thousands of Syrian refugees.
Restaurants and cafes were destroyed and body parts were strewn across the streets. The damage went at least three blocks deep from the site of the blasts.
President Bashar al-Assad’s government was the “usual suspect”, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said.
“We know that the people taking refuge in Hatay have become targets for the Syrian regime,” Arinc said in comments broadcast on Turkish television. “We think of them as the usual suspects when it comes to planning such a horrific attack.”
Another deputy prime minister, Besir Atalay, was quoted by NTV as saying initial findings suggested the attackers came from inside Turkey, but had links to Syria’s intelligence agency.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Nor was there any comment from Damascus.
NATO-member Turkey has fired back at Syrian government forces when mortars have landed on its soil, but despite its strong words has appeared reluctant to bring its considerable military might to bear in the conflict.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey reserves the right to take “every kind of measure”, but he said he saw no need for an emergency meeting of NATO which would be the first step towards involving the alliance in any possible response.
The United States strongly condemned the attacks and vowed support in identifying those responsible, while NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius voiced “full solidarity” with Turkey.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office said he hoped the perpetrators would be swiftly brought to justice.
NATO member Turkey supports the uprising against Assad and violence has crossed the border before, but not on the same scale. The bombings were the bloodiest incident on Turkish soil since Syria’s conflict began more than two years ago.