Turkey 'probes claims Iraqi Kurdish civilians killed in air strike'
ISTANBULTurkish Foreign Ministry on Aug. 1 said an investigation has been opened into claims that several civilians were killed in an air strike against militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.
Iraqi Kurdish officials said Aug. 1 six people had been killed in a pre-dawn strike by Turkish war planes on the village of Zarkel in northern Iraq.
"News reports about civilian casualties - in addition to PKK losses - during the air operation on the Zergele Camp, which the PKK terrorist organization uses for logistic and coordination purposes, have been received with sorrow and an investigation has been initiated about the allegations put forward in these press reports.," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that "All the allegations that have been brought forward will be investigated fully.”
The ministry said a joint study would be conducted with the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Administration.
The ministry said all targets during the campaign early Aug. 1 have been chosen in areas where intelligence shows there are no civilians.
But it also accused the PKK of using "civilians as human shields."
"The findings that will be attained as a result of these probes will be shared with the public as soon as possible," the statement said.
The Kurdish local authorities in northern Iraq earlier Aug. 1 said the PKK should “withdraw” from their region to prevent Turkish air strikes from causing civilian casualties.
Around 260 members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have been killed and hundreds more wounded in Ankara's week-long campaign of air strikes against targets of the outlawed group inside Turkey and in northern Iraq, the semi-official Anadolu Agency said on Aug. 1.
Without citing its sources, Anadolu said that among those wounded was Nurettin Demirtaş, the brother of the co-leader of Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas.
Ankara has launched a two-pronged anti-terror offensive against Islamic State of Iraq and the LEvant (ISIL) jihadists in Syria and the outlawed PKK militants in northern Iraq and inside Turkey after a wave of attacks in the country.
In the latest air strikes on July 31, 28 Turkish F-16s destroyed 65 targets of the PKK including shelters and arms depots, the report said. The heaviest air strikes were on July 30, when 80 Turkish aircraft hit 100 targets of the PKK, according to Anadolu.
"Up until now 260 terrorists have been rendered ineffective (killed) and 380-400 terrorists have been identified as injured, including the brother of Selahattin Demirtaş, Nurettin Demirtaş," Anadolu Agency said in its report, adding that the air strikes were expected to continue.
The Turkish government has so far refused to officially disclose casualty figures, with one official telling AFP that "this is not a football game."
Selahattin Demirtaş openly acknowledges that his elder brother Nurettin went to the Kandil Mountain in northern Iraq where the PKK's military headquarters are based.
“I cannot confirm the Anadolu Agency report, because my brother is not in Kandil,” the HDP co-leader said.
“My brother is not conducting a paid military service against [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] ISIL, he is resisting ISIL for the sake of his people,” he added.