Questions grow over Uludere intel failure
ISTANBUL / ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
A huge crowd carries the coffins of 35 villagers who were killed by an air strike by Turkish fighter jets near the Ortasu village of Uludere in the southeastern province of Şırnak. Prime Minister Erdoğan says calls the strike ‘unfortunate and distressing.’ DHA photo
As the funerals of 35 people who were killed in a Turkish military air raid on Thursday were being attended by 10,000 people yesterday, state officials and the Turkish Armed Forces gave their explanations regarding the incident.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the situation “unfortunate and distressing.”
“The flight over this region was conducted upon [receiving certain] information supplied by our intelligence services about 10 days ago. Our two F-16 planes took off for here immediately after unmanned aerial vehicles conducted this flight. Of course, the findings of unmanned aerial vehicles cannot be evaluated so as to [specifically identify the individuals passing through this area]; it is only visuals obtained from there. And it is a group of 40 [people] in the footage,” Erdoğan said. The group was engaged in “smuggling cigarettes, diesel oil and the like through mules,” he said.
Intelligence service responds to claims
Turkey’s Intelligence Service (MİT) responded to the claims on the intelligence being provided by the service. “The claims that the air raid was caused by MİT intelligence does not reflect truth,” it said.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan also referred to two previous incidents in which PKK members attacked Turkish Armed Forces by carrying guns with mules.
“Animals were used to carry arms in both the previous unfortunate [incidents] in Gediktepe and Hantepe as well. Print and visual media had criticized [security forces’ inaction back then]. Of course, the criticisms were a lesson, a measure. This time around, [the criticism] is for our security forces not to commit such mistakes. It is an unfortunate and distressing outcome, nonetheless. Some 35 of our citizens have passed away, and one citizen is injured. Our sorrow here, of course, is tremendous,” Erdoğan said.
The prime minister added that the essential administrative and judicial examinations were currently underway.
“We are in possession of four hours of footage, as the prosecutor’s office continues to conduct their work here. Both our Turkish Armed Forces and other relevant officials are examining the footage. The situation will become a lot clearer after these examinations,” Erdoğan said.
Turkish President Abdullah Gül also commented on the killings along the Turkish-Iraqi border, saying that it was a very unfortunate incident. “According to the information we have received, all of the people who were killed in the bombing were civilians. We all are sorry about the incident,” said Gül, adding that an investigation would be made into the incident.
Following its initial statement that described the botched raid as an operation against the PKK based on intelligence, the General Staff yesterday issued a message of condolence to the families of the slain smugglers.“May our citizens who lost their lives during the Dec. 28 cross-border incident rest in peace. We extend our condolences to their families,” said the message, posted on the Army’s website.
Senior ministers gave assurances that the investigation would uncover whether any fault or ill-intention had led to the intelligence blunder that prompted the bombing.
The Turkish Armed Forces have banned entrance to 15 areas in Southeast Anatolia between Jan. 4 and April 4, saying they have become “temporary security zones.”
If the operational mistake was the result of “negligence or ill-intention, those responsible will face the consequences. We are all waiting for the result of the investigation,” Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu stressed that Turkey was sticking to rule of law principles in its anti-terror struggle and described the botched raid as “an exceptional incident.” k HDN