REYHANLI, Turkey — Anti-government protests flared for a third day on Monday in a Turkish town devastated by two powerful car bombs near the Syrian border, and some Turks accused their leader of putting the nation's security at risk by backing the rebels fighting Syria's government.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will "not refrain" from responding to twin car bombings it has blamed on Syria, but that his government will be cautious and avoid being drawn into its neighbor's civil war.
Saturday's powerful bombings occurred in the border town of Reyhanli, a main hub for Syrian refugees and rebels. It was the bloodiest attack in Turkey in recent years and 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 journalist in Reyhanli on Monday saw authorities recovering at least one more body.
The government of Syrian President Bashar Assad has denied being behind the attacks. However, Turkish authorities said they have detained nine Turkish citizens with links to the Syrian intelligence agency in connection with the attacks, including a suspected ringleader.
About 200,000 Syrian refugees are sheltered in camps along Turkey's border with Syria, while thousands more live outside of the camps, stoking resentment among residents in the ethnically mixed regions of southern Turkey. In Reyhanli, about 25,000 refugees are estimated to be living among the 90,000 Turkish citizens, and some citizens responded to the bombings by attacking vehicles with Syrian license plates.
For a third straight day on Monday, Turks took part in sporadic anti-government protests in the Reyhanli area, demanding that Erdogan resign.
On Monday, Ihsan Dagi, a professor of international relations, said in a commentary in the Zaman newspaper that Turkey's government should seek U.S. help.
"What is left for Turkey is to convince the United States about a no-fly zone over Syria to be controlled by NATO forces, while increasing support to the Free Syrian Army," the main rebel umbrella group, he wrote. "These will not cease the possibility of new terrorist attacks against Turkish targets. On the contrary, it is likely to increase risks of such violent acts."