Kurdish militants call for 'uprising'
ULUDERE - Agence France-Presse
Locals gather near a hospital morgue after bodies of victims killed in air strikes arrived in the south eastern Turkish town of Uludere, in the Sirnak province, December 29, 2011. REUTERS PhotoThe outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) called today for an uprising after an air strike killed 35 villagers near the Iraqi border in what the ruling party admitted could have been a mistake.
As locals prepared to bury their dead, the admission from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's party did little to assuage their anger.
"Damn you, Erdogan ... One day you too will know our pain," shouted a group of protesters in Uludere, the main town in the region of the bombing.
And the call for a new "serhildan" (uprising) also served to ratchet up tensions further.
"We urge the people of Kurdistan... to react after this massacre and seek a settling of accounts through uprisings," senior PKK leader Bahoz Erdal said in a statement. "This massacre was no accident ... It was organized and planned.”
The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, uses the term "uprising" for sweeping civil disobedience, as well as clashes with the police.
Turkey's military command said it carried out an air strike on suspected PKK militants after a spy drone spotted a group moving toward its sensitive southeastern border under cover of darkness late Dec. 28 in an area known to be used by militants.
Turkey's ruling party Dec. 29 said the strike could have been a "blunder" that killed civilians and not Kurdish separatists. Police, meanwhile, fired tear gas to disperse stone-throwing youths in a pro-Kurdish demonstration in Istanbul in the wake of the killings.
"According to initial reports, these people were smugglers and not terrorists," said Hüseyin Çelik, a deputy leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
"If it turns out to have been a mistake, a blunder, rest assured that this will not be covered up," he said, adding that it could have been an "operational accident" by the military.
The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which is mainly focused on the Kurdish issue, said the planes had bombed villagers who were smuggling sugar and fuel across the border on mules and donkeys.
"It's clearly a massacre of civilians, of whom the oldest is 20," BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas said in a statement that called on Turkey's Kurdish population to respond "by democratic means."
The PKK took up arms in Kurdish-majority southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives.
The protest in Istanbul on Dec. 29 called by the BDP drew 2,000 people to Taksim Square.
Afterwards, several hundred youths shouting pro-PKK slogans threw stones at riot police, who responded with water cannon and tear gas, making several arrests.
Police also clashed with protesters in the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakir and Şırnak, firing tear gas and water cannon in response to demonstrators who threw stones and petrol bombs, local security officials said.
The Turkish military launched an operation on militant bases inside northern Iraq in October after a PKK attack killed 24 soldiers in the border town of Çukurca, the army's biggest loss since 1993.