Ankara, 2 Rabi’ul Akhir 1434/ 12 Februari 2013 (MINA) – Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler said that death toll rose to 13 following the blast which occurred in Cilvegozu border gate in Turkey’s southern Hatay province on Monday.
According to Anadolu Agency report quoted by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA), Guler told reporters that three of the victims were Turkish citizens and 10 were Syrians, adding that 27 others were wounded, and nine of them were Turks.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, Customs & Trade Minister Hayati Yazici and Interior Minister Guler left for Hatay to survey the blast scene.
Guler said that 19-20 vehicles were damaged due to the blast, adding that the blast occurred in a vehicle which came from Syrian side. He noted that a strong explosive was used in the blast.
Three ministers examine the blast scene in Cilvegozu
On the other hand, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, Customs & Trade Minister Hayati Yazici and Interior Minister Muammer Guler surveyed the blast scene in Cilvegozu border gate near southern Hatay city on Monday.
Earlier in the day, 13 people were killed and 27 others were injured during a blast at Cilvegozu border gate. Among victims, there were Turkish and Syrian citizens.
Cilvegozu Customs Directorate officials briefed the ministers about the incident.
Ambassador Ricciardone issued a condolence message for the victims of the blast
US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone has issued a condolence message over the loss of lives during the blast at Cilvegozu border gate which killed 13 people and injured dozens of others.
In a statement released on Monday, Ricciardone said that they were deeply saddened by the loss of life at the Cilvegozu border-crossing between Turkey and Syria in what appeared to be a deliberate attack.
US State Department’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland also said they were saddened by the loss of life in the blast in Cilvegozu border gate near Turkey’s southern Hatay province.
Meanwhile, according to Today’s Zaman report, Witnesses said they saw the vehicle drive up to the Cilvegozu border post, one of the main crossing points for Syrian refugees into Turkey, shortly before the explosion.
In the first official comment on the explosion, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said the government is investigating all possible causes for the blast, including a suicide attack, but it is wrong to jump to hasty conclusions.
“The information that we have for now is that a minibus with Syrian number plates coming form the other side exploded. It was a powerful explosion,” Arınç, who is also the government spokesman, told reporters after a regular cabinet meeting.
“But whether this was a vehicle laden with explosives or another type of explosion, I think, at the latest, will become clear tomorrow,” he said.
Officials later on the day said death toll from the blast had risen to 13, including three Turks. At least 28 people were wounded, 13 of them seriously.
The minibus exploded as it was driving through a stretch of no-man’s land between the two countries only metres (yards) away from the Turkish border gate, where scores of Syrian civilians and Turkish humanitarian workers were congregated, Arınç said.
He also said office of Reyhanlı Prosecutor launched an investigation over the blast and intelligence agencies are working to sort out the incident.
Erdogan: No concession
Speaking at a dinner attended by all ambassadors of EU countries and held at the Prime Ministry in Ankara on Monday, Prime Minister Erdoğan said the incident is of critical importance for showing how Turkey is right regarding its sensitivity about terrorism and the ongoing conflict in Syria, as well as Ankara’s efforts.
With regard to fighting terrorism and its approach towards the events taking place in Syria, Erdoğan said Turkey will make no concession to its stance and will maintain its determination, in what seemed to be an open reference to comments that appeared in Turkish media suggesting that the blast could be a signal from Damascus.
Speaking from the scene of the blast, Syrian opposition campaigner Osama Semaan said he believed the explosion was an attack by Assad loyalists in response to an offer of talks from opposition Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib.
Alkhatib said on Sunday he was willing to hold talks with Assad’s representatives in rebel-held areas of northern Syria to try to end a conflict that has killed some 60,000 people. (T.P06/E1)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)