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Turkey arrests 'prime suspect' over blasts

Police say one of the main perpetrators of bombings that killed more than 50 people near Syria border has been detained.

Last Modified: 17 May 2013 14:57
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Turkish ministers have said the bombings were carried out by a group with ties to the Syrian governement [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 have said.

Hatay governor Celalettin Lekesiz said police had detained a man, who local media named as Mehmet Genc, shortly before midnight on Thursday in Samandag district, near the Syrian border, and that he was being treated as a prime suspect.

Turkey has accused Syria of involvement in the two bombings last weekend in the town of Reyhanli in Hatay province. Damascus has denied any role.

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 Recep 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.

Multiple arrests

Lekesiz said police were still searching for two other suspected perpetrators, who along with the latest man detained 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.

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.

Damascus has offered to carry out a joint investigation.

Erdogan has rejected the offer and said his government would have a "road map" on the Syrian crisis after discussing the incident with Washington and other allies in the region.

The Turkish prime minister met US President Barack Obama on Thursday and the two leaders reiterated their calls for Assad to step down and for an end to the killing which the UN says has killed more than 80,000 people.

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Agencies
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