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Associated Press, Wednesday, October 3, 3:23 PM

ISTANBUL — The office of Turkey’s prime minister says Turkish artillery has fired on Syrian targets after deadly shelling from the Syrian side hit a Turkish border town.

The Turkish statement says the artillery fired “on points in Syria that were detected with radar, in line with the rules of engagement.”

Suicide bombers apparently targeted an officers’ club in the heart of Syria’s commercial capital.

The artillery fire on Wednesday followed shelling, believed to be from Syrian government forces that hit the Turkish village of Akcakale. A Turkish ruling party official says five people died.

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The once impressive facade of the Riga Palace Hotel was left a ragged patchwork of concrete. A further bomb just off the square, near Bab Jenine, wreaked similar damage on the chamber of commerce.

Syria’s state news agency put the death toll at 31. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 48 people died.

Residents told The Daily Telegraph that most of the victims were members of the security forces lodging in the buildings during the fighting which has consumed the city since mid-July.

“This area was where the regime housed many of its officers, and the hotels were full of its soldiers,” said a resident and opposition activist who called himself Abo Hamdo and who had just returned from the scene.

State media said the explosions were caused by suicide car bombers, and the footage showed a huge crater in the road nearby though no vehicle wreckage. The rest of the square, which connects the historic Old City to the south-east with the municipal park and prosperous, regime-held new city to the north and west, was reduced to dust.

The scale of the damage suggested far bigger explosive charges than those in previous car bombings, and there were immediate, competing conspiracy theories about whether the government version of events was true.

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