Thousands mourn Turkey air strike victims

 

Thousands of mourners gathered in southeast Turkey
for the funerals of 35 Kurdish civilians who were killed in a
botched raid by Turkish military jets that mistook the group for
Kurdish rebels based in Iraq.


Turkish television footage showed people, many weeping and lamenting the dead, as they gathered after the air strikes Wednesday that killed a group of smugglers along the border, one of the deadliest episodes in the conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdish rebels who took up arms in 1984.

Noncombatants have often been caught in the war's crossfire, but one of the highest civilian tolls in a single day was sure to further sour relations between the government and ethnic Kurds who have long faced discrimination. A government campaign to reconcile with Kurds by granting them more rights has stalled amid a surge in fighting this year.

Dogan news agency video showed people digging graves on a hill near the southeast village of Gulyazi, home of some of the slain smugglers, and the funeral rites quickly took on a political tone. Firat, a pro-Kurdish news agency, said some of the coffins were draped in red, yellow and green, the colors associated with Kurdish identity and the rebel group PKK.

According to Firat, families at the funerals urged the PKK, whose Kurdish acronym stands for Kurdistan Workers' Party, to take revenge and they accused Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of being a "murderer."

The Kurdish conflict is a drag on Turkey's efforts to burnish its image as a regional model and advocate for democratic change in neighboring countries such as Syria, where thousands have died since an uprising began in March.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a chief architect of Turkey's rising profile, said the airstrikes would be thoroughly investigated.

"Whatever are the requirements of a state of law, these will be done. No one can claim that such an event was intentional," Hurriyet newspaper quoted Davutoglu as saying. "This is a sad event, it should not be made a subject for political exploitation. The incident will be investigated and whatever is necessary will be done."

The military issued a message of condolence that was carried on the state-run Anadolu news agency. There was no apology, but such a public outreach is highly unusual in the Turkish armed forces, which are traditionally tightlipped about operations and have seen their political influence decline in recent years.

"We wish God's mercy and grace to those who lost their lives in the cross-border incident of Dec. 28, 2011, and extend our condolences to their family and friends," the statement said.

All of the victims were under age 30 and some were the sons of village guards who have aided Turkish troops in their fight against rebels, according to Huseyin Celik, a spokesman for the prime minister's ruling party.

There were conflicting reports about what the men may have been transporting, though cigarettes and diesel fuel are commonly smuggled from Iraq to Turkey, often by horse or donkey over the rugged terrain. Turkish government officials have accused Kurdish rebels of engaging in such illegal trade to generate revenue for their coffers.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea