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
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created