Protests after car bombs in Turkish border town

REYHANLI, Turkey Sat May 11, 2013 2:01pm EDT

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REYHANLI, Turkey (Reuters) - Protests erupted in a Turkish town near the Syrian border on Saturday after twin car bombs killed at least 40 people, with some locals blaming Syrian residents for bringing violence over the frontier and others railing against Turkey's foreign policy.

Police reinforcements were sent to the town of Reyhanli after the bombs ripped into crowded streets in the early afternoon, scattering cars and concrete blocks. The town is home to thousands of Syrians who have fled their country's civil war.

Videos posted on Turkish news websites showed a group of around 100 Turks marching in central Reyhanli calling for Prime Minister Erdogan to resign, blaming the attack on his government's policy towards Syria.

Turkey has been one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's harshest critics and has supported the uprising against him, now in its third year.

Other videos showed residents smashing the windows of vehicles with Syrian number plates.

Turkey is housing more than 300,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict, mostly along the border region, an influx that has stretched local resources and sometimes caused tensions with residents.

"Police and gendarmes have been instructed to take control, just to prevent any such events," a Turkish government official told Reuters, asking not to be named.

"We heard that there were some reactions from local Turkish people against Syrian cars and Syrian people. Police reinforcements have been sent to prevent that sort of thing."

A Reuters witness said there was a heavy security presence in the center of Reyhanli, near where the blasts occurred, and that the security forces had also set up checkpoints to control entry and exit to the town.

Some 60 people also marched in the capital Ankara, chanting slogans against Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, but they later dispersed.

(Reporting by Mehmet Emin Caliskan and Ece Toksabay in Istanbul, Parisa Hafezi in Ankara; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Alison Williams)

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