Lawmakers differ on footage from air raid

Lawmakers differ on footage from air raid

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Villagers slain mistakenly in the Dec. 28, 2011, air raid at the Iraqi border are easily recognizable as civilians in footage taken by a drone during the strike, lawmakers who saw the images at Parliament’s Human Rights Commission said, while the panel’s chairman cautioned against early conclusions.

Tasked with investigating the politically explosive incident, the commission watched the footage Feb. 15 behind closed doors. Lawmakers said they were emotionally overwhelmed and some fought back tears.

Military technology experts and a General Staff representative were present at the session. The raid killed 34 teenagers and young adults involved in cross-border smuggling, which is widespread in the impoverished region.

The government is yet to say who provided the faulty intelligence that prompted the operation.
Lawmakers explained the footage, taken from an Israeli-made Heron, was nine hours long and covered the villagers’ passage to northern Iraq, their meeting with fellow smugglers who supplied them goods and their journey back to Turkey, during which they came under attack as they approached the border. Four bombings took place within 40 minutes, they said.

“It is obvious even to the naked eye that they were villagers trading goods. They have their mules with them. I can easily say they died in vain. We got goose bumps watching the footage,” Levent Gök of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said.

Ertuğrul Kürkçü of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) said the footage had confirmed the accounts of the victims’ relatives, whom commission members interviewed during a recent visit to the village of Gülyazı. Ayhan Sefer Üstün, a member of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), appeared irked by the members’ comments and cautioned against early conclusions. “The inquiry has not been completed yet. The footage is not enough to see the big picture,” he said. The BDP yesterday submitted a criminal complaint over the raid at an Ankara court, urging an investigation into the prime minister, the chief of General Staff, the Air Force commander and other liable government, military and intel officials.