Sunday, January 1, 2012

Tragedy in Sirnak

PHOTO from Radikal

A Turkish air strike in the Turkey-Iraq border district of Uludere in Sirnak province early in the morning on Dec. 29 has resulted in the deaths of 35 people who were smuggling diesel from Iraq to Turkey. All are Turkish Kurds, and they do not appear to in any way be affiliated with the PKK or PKK activity. The strike is a great embarrassment to the government, military, and intelligence services, which in recent months have worked to facilitate a coordinated, rapid attack strategy. The 35 killed were targeted by unarmed Heron drones (not U.S. Predator drones based at Incirlik). Those killed were hauling diesel with mules, and according to initial statement by government and military officials, appeared to be PKK forces crossing into Turkey from Iraq.

Deputy AKP vice chair Huseyin Celik has characterized the strikes as an "operational accident," and Erdogan and other government officials have expressed deep regret for the incident, vowing a full investigation into the incident. In a statement made over the weekend, Erdogan said that innocent civilians might have been intentionally attacked from the air before (a reference to Dersim), but that this does not happen today and that the government will not stand for it. Turkish Armed Forces Chief of General Staff Necdet Ozel is conducting an investigation into the incident, and is expected to report to the government in the next few days.

Turkish newspapers resound that the state must apologize for the mistake, and sentiment is nearly universal that all efforts should be made to investigate the tragedy and avoid similar incidents in the future. That said, it is yet to be seen whether the results of the investigation will be shared with the public and those responsible policies and officials held to account. Now that the government has firmer control of the military and is at the head of efforts to coordinate efforts between it and Turkish intelligence, headed by MIT head Hakan Fidan, the investigation and policies to follow will be a critical test of AKP leadership.

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