Three Syrian occupants were killed when a car carrying a bomb exploded in the Reyhanli district of the southern province of Hatay.
Media reports in Turkey on Friday further said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said an investigation has been immediately launched after the explosion. Erdogan said: “It is apparent a bomb was inside the car and those inside were Syrian nationals.”
According to initial findings, Turkish officials are treating the blast as an act of terrorism. The passengers in the vehicle were being investigated for their potential links to the Islamic State (ISIS), with the one being a suicide bomber whose explosive device caused the blast by detonating early, Reuters reported citing unnamed security sources.
The explosives-laden car was allegedly targeting people at the nearby Fatih Sultan Mehmet Mosque for Friday prayers, daily Sabah said.
The Syria-registered car was reportedly bearing a temporary Turkish license plate and was on the move when it exploded at around 13.00 am. The explosion point was less than a kilometer away from the district governor’s office in the town center, state-run Anadolu news agency (AA) reported on Friday.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the blast was seemingly due to an improvised explosive device and the killed Syrians on board were in Turkey under temporary protection, a status granted to millions of immigrants who fled Syria crossing the border.
Police were searching for a second bomb-laden vehicle, according to a report by daily Cumhuriyet.
Bordering Syria, Reyhanli was hit by twin-car bombings on May 11, 2013, which killed 53 people and left 140 wounded, the second deadliest attack in the country’s history after a bombing at a pro-Kurdish political rally in the capital Ankara in October 2015, which killed 109 people.
Ankara blamed a group loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the attack, while Damascus denied any involvement in it. In May, Yusuf Nazik (34), who was captured in 2018 in an operation by the Turkish Intelligence Agency (MIT) in Syria, was sentenced to 53 life sentences without the chance of parole, after he confessed to planning the attack as a middleman between Syrian intelligence and a perpetrator.
Turkey is believed to be the biggest supporter of the rebel groups fighting against the al-Assad regime during the eight-year civil war in Syria. Turkey is home to 3,657, 000 Syrians, who came to seek protection.