Turkish citizens believed to have links to the Syrian intelligence agency have been detained in connection with twin car bombings that shattered a border town, with Turkey's prime minister insisting the country would not fall for a "dirty scenario" and be dragged into its neighbour's civil war.
Despite harsh accusations between Turkey and Syria signalling a sharp escalation of already high tensions between the two former allies, Recep Tayyip Erodgan insisted that Turkey would "maintain our extreme cool-headedness in the face of efforts and provocations to drag us into the bloody quagmire in Syria".
Nine people were detained overnight, including the mastermind of the attack, and more were expected, officials said during a joint press conference in Hatay, near the border town of Reyhanli where the bombs struck. Syria denies involvement in the bombings.
"This incident was carried out by an organisation ... which is in close contact to pro-regime groups in Syria and I say this very clearly, with the Syrian mukhabarat," said Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler. He did not name the organisation. Among the nine people detained overnight was the mastermind of the attack and more were expected, he added.
Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said Turkish authorities determined that the nine were involved through their "testimonies and confessions," but did not elaborate.
Saturday's twin bombings fifteen minutes apart damaged some 850 buildings in the town, a hub for Syrian refugees and rebels just across the border from Syria's Idlib province. It also wounded dozens of people, including 50 who remained hospitalised on Sunday.
Syria and Turkey became adversaries early on during the uprising against Syrian president Bashar Assad that erupted in March 2011. Since then, Turkey has firmly sided with the Syrian opposition, hosting its leaders along with rebel commanders and providing refuge to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.
Authorities had so far identified 35 of the dead, three of them Syrians. Families began burying their loved ones in funerals on Sunday.
Earlier, in Damascus, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi rejected Turkey's charges that Mr Assad's regime was behind the bombs. "Syria didn't and will never undertake such acts because our values don't allow us to do this," Mr al-Zoubi told a news conference.