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Turkey: Would not refrain from responding to Syria

People view scene one Saturday explosisites thkilled 46 injured about 50 others Reyhanli near Turkey's border with Syria. | AP

People view the scene at one of the Saturday explosion sites that killed 46 and injured about 50 others, in Reyhanli, near Turkey's border with Syria. | AP Photo

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REYHANLI, Turkey — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday Turkey would “not refrain” from responding to twin car bombings it has blamed on Syria but also said the government would be cautious and not be drawn into its neighbor’s civil war.

Saturday’s powerful bombings at a border town that is a main hub for Syrian refugees and rebels, was the bloodiest attack in Turkey in recent years. It escalated tensions between the two former allies and raised fears the conflict in Syria could engulf Turkey. The official death toll in the attacks stood at 46 but an Associated Press reporter saw authorities recovering at least one more body from a building on Monday.

Syria has denied being behind the attacks. Turkish authorities, however, said they had detained nine Turkish citizens with links to the Syrian intelligence agency in connection with the attacks, including a suspected ringleader.

Erdogan said Monday Turkey had no doubt about Syria’s involvement and called Syria’s denial a lie.

“The incident is, with certainty, an incident connected to the regime,” Erdogan said. “Their world is based on lies.”

He said Turkey would not refrain from “giving the necessary response” but also indicated that the government wanted to act with restraint.

“We must not enter into a policy of tension,” Erdogan said. “We have to take steps that are required to be taken by great states. “

“We won’t fall for the trap, but we will give the necessary response at the necessary time. We would not refrain from this,” he said without elaborating.

Western leaders are facing growing pressure to find a way to end the crisis. The attack is the fourth incident threatening to pull Turkey into the conflict. Last year, Syrian forces brought down a Turkish reconnaissance plane and in February a bombing at a border gate between Turkey and Syria killed 14 people. Germany, the Netherlands and the U.S. sent two Patriot air defense batteries to protect NATO ally Turkey, after artillery shell fired from Syria landed on the Turkish side.

Earlier this month, Israel attacked suspected shipments of advanced Iranian missiles in Syria with back-to-back airstrikes. Israeli officials signaled there would be more such attacks unless Syria refrains from trying to deliver such “game-changing” missiles to Hezbollah, an anti-Israel militia in Lebanon.

Erdogan is flying to the U.S. for talks with President Barack Obama this week, and both men could come under greater pressure to take action in the wake of the car bombs.

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