Turkish commander says he warned superiors before Uludere massacre

Turkish commander says he warned superiors before Uludere massacre

Turkish commander says he warned superiors before Uludere massacre

34 civilians were killed when the Turkish army carried out air strikes in the village of Ortasu, near the Turkish-Iraqi border.

Colonel Aygün Eker, who was a military intelligence officer at the time of the Uludere massacre in the southeastern province of Şırnak, has said he warned his superiors before the fatal air strike.

More than three years after the killing of 34 civilians, mostly youth, in the town of Uludere after allegedly being mistaken for militants belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Aker reportedly said he had warned his superiors that the target could be civilians, not militants.  

His evaluation on the footage from the unmanned aerial vehicles was that the suspected group consisted of smugglers, not members of the PKK, and prepared to stop group before an airstrike by the military, daily Milliyet quoted him as saying Feb. 16.

They concluded that the PKK was active in the region and the group might be acting under the knowledge of the PKK and might, as well as includes some of its members, Eker said.

His superior Brigadier Gen. Halil Erkek also agreed to his conclusion, but Corps Commander Yıldırım Güvenç commented that the group was the PKK, ordering artillery fire, according to Eker.

In further hesitance, Eker said he carried the issue to the 2nd Army Commandership, receiving an order not to act until receiving confirmation from the Land Forces. However, the Corps Commander insisted on the artillery attack, he said.

In further evaluations in the light of additional footage from a predator, a U.S.-made UAV, the call for an attack was canceled as the order was changed into catching the group members as they passed through the border into Turkey.

After receiving the information that the General Staff decided hours later on an air strike, Eker said he had warned Servet Yörük, the 2nd Army Commander that the decision was “wrong” and it might have “fatal results.”

However, Eker quoted his commander as saying “the General Staff would not make such a decision if they did not have certain information.”

“There was a contradiction between the Army Commandership’s opinion and those who planned the air strike,” Eker said. “As those at the Image Inspection Center, we thought that the body that ruled for the airstrike had confirmed information that we did not possess. Still, we were not consulted,” he said, noting that this was against the former practices as their earlier calls for an airstrike were also rejected in the past. Still, some aerial operations abroad were made without any consultancy, he added.

The massacre took place Dec. 28, 2011, when the Turkish army carried out air strikes in the village of Ortasu (Roboski in Kurdish), near the Turkish-Iraqi border.

Eker also said he provided this information in his testimony on Dec. 23, 2013, but this was not included in a General Staff filing to the Constitutional Court, Milliyet reported.