ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish police have detained a man they believe to be one of the main perpetrators of car bombings that killed more than 50 people near the Syrian border, officials said on Friday.
Turkey has accused Syria of involvement in the two bombings last weekend in the town of Reyhanli in Hatay province, which fanned fears that Syria’s civil war is dragging in neighboring states. Damascus denies any role.
Hatay governor Celalettin Lekesiz said police had detained a man identified only by the initials M.G. shortly before midnight on Thursday in Samandag district, near the Syrian border, and that he was being treated as a prime suspect.
Huseyin Celik, deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling AK Party, said the two vehicles used in the bombings were registered to the detained man, and that he had driven one to a blast site in Reyhanli.
State-run broadcaster TRT reported on Friday that Reyhanli’s police chief had been dismissed. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said this week he did not think the attacks were the result of a weakness in the intelligence services, but that there may have been a “disconnect” between them and the police.
Lekesiz said police were still searching for two other suspected perpetrators, who along with M.G. had been trying to cross over into Syria from Samandag but had failed because of stepped-up security along the border.
He said the two men were believed to still be inside Turkey.
A total of 16 people were in detention in relation to the bombings, Lekesiz said, four of whom were formally arrested. It was not clear what charges they faced.
Government ministers have said the bombings - one of the deadliest attacks in Turkey’s modern history - were carried out by a group with ties to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Reporting by Jonathon Burch and Duygu Erdogan; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Raissa Kasolowsky