Turkey says border raid saddening, promises no cover up of mistakes
Turkey has said an air raid along the Turkish-Iraqi border that killed 35 civilians is saddening and that those who were killed in the overnight airstrike are not terrorists, Today's Zaman reported.
Hüseyin Çelik, a deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), told a news conference on Thursday that Turkish warplanes conducted an air operation based on intelligence from drones, suspecting Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists were in the area.
Thirty-five people were killed in an overnight airstrike by Turkish warplanes in southeast Turkey, near the Iraqi border, local officials said on Thursday.
He said those who were killed in the airstrike were cigarette smugglers and not terrorists, but added that the primary reason behind why the group was there is still unknown.
He expressed his condolences to the families of the killed and said the incident is saddening.
Smuggling is an important source of income for locals in provinces along the Iraqi border, with many villagers involved in bringing fuel, cigarettes and other goods from Iraqi villages on the other side of the border.
The incident comes amidst recently stepped-up military operations against the terrorist PKK, which have been regarded as successful by many security experts. The number of PKK terrorists who have surrendered or were captured has increased in the past few months. Dozens of terrorists who refused to surrender were killed in November and December. Turkish losses were minimal in these encounters, and no civilians were killed.
Çelik said an investigation into the incident continues and that whatever is required will be done if the investigation concludes that a mistake was made, adding that the government will not try to cover up any possible wrongdoing.
He speculated that intelligence and operational mistakes were probably made but noted that the investigation will clear up the many question marks now lingering over the event.