ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
PM Erdoğan defends the military for its fatal raid in Uludere last year that killed 34 civilians, saying the forces took the ‘necessary step’
Tayfun, the 8-year-old son of police officer Akın Bayram, who was killed during clashes between security forces and suspected PKK militants in southeastern province of Diyarbakır’s Kulp district, sits next to his father’s coffin during the funeral. DHA Photo
Turkey’s military did what needed to be done when it launched a botched air raid that killed 34 villagers along the Iraqi border in December 2011, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
“Our Armed Forces took the necessary step. That region is a terror region,” he told reporters accompanying him on a trip to Pakistan.
Erdoğan said he personally watched video footage of the incident recorded by a Turkish military drone. “I saw movement in the CD I watched; [it was] a convoy of 30-40 people on their way,” Erdoğan said. “It is impossible to see from that height. It is not a region in which civilians reside. In such an area, the Armed Forces cannot know if it is Ahmet or Mehmet.”
The prime minister also said he learned of the operation immediately after it ended.
The government has delegated authorization to the military to conduct cross-border strikes against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party
(PKK) and that the jets conducted the operation within the scope of that authorization. “We gave authorization to the military and they used it. If we are not going to trust our army or our police, how are we going to carry out the struggle against terrorism?”
Political squabbles over the raid in the southeastern province of Şırnak’s Uludere district on Dec. 28, 2011, were rekindled by a Wall Street Journal report which claimed footage from a U.S. Predator drone was also made available to the military ahead of the strike, which was intended to strike PKK
militants but resulted instead in the deaths of 34 smugglers transporting small goods from northern Iraq.
“The Armed Forces carried out their duty without any ill intentions. We’ve accepted it was a mistake, and we’ve announced an apology and compensation. But some people are trying to manipulate the issue. Are we supposed to say exactly what the terrorist organization [PKK] wants to hear? I’m sorry, we cannot do that,” he said.
Erdoğan insisted that the WSJ report had a covert motive targeting the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama ahead of November’s presidential elections.
The authorities have yet to explain who gave the go-ahead for the strike and how the military concluded that the group moving along the border was in fact a group of PKK