Kurdish separatists in Turkey called for an “uprising” yesterday after an air force raid killed 35 villagers near the Iraqi border in what the ruling party admitted could have been a blunder.
“We urge the people of Kurdistan ... to react after this massacre and seek a settling of accounts through uprisings,” Bahoz Erdal of the armed wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), labeled a terrorist organization by Ankara, said in a statement.
The PKK uses the term “uprising” for sweeping civil disobedience and clashes with police.
Turkey’s military command said it carried out an air strike on suspected PKK militants after a spy drone spotted a group moving toward its sensitive southeastern border under cover of darkness late on Wednesday, in an area known to be used by militants.
Turkey’s ruling party on Thursday said the strike late on Wednesday could have been a “blunder” that killed civilians and not Kurdish separatists, and police had to fire tear gas to disperse stone-throwing youths in a pro-Kurdish demonstration in Istanbul.
“According to initial reports, these people were smugglers and not terrorists,” said Huseyin Celik, vice president of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“If it turns out to have been a mistake, a blunder, rest assured that this will not be covered up,” he said, adding that it could have been an “operational accident” by the military.
The main pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) said the planes had bombed villagers from Kurdish majority southeastern Turkey, who were smuggling sugar and fuel across the border on mules and donkeys.
“It’s clearly a massacre of civilians, of whom the oldest is 20,” BDP leader Selahattin Demirtas said in a statement that called on Turkey’s Kurdish population to respond “by democratic means.”
The PKK took up arms in Kurdish-majority southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives.
The protest in Istanbul on Thursday called by the BDP drew 2,000 people to the city’s Taksim Square.
Afterwards, several hundred youths shouting pro-PKK slogans threw stones at riot police, who responded with water cannon and tear gas, making several arrests.