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Kurdish separatists call for 'uprising' in Turkey

Video by Jasper MORTIMER

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-12-30

Kurdish separatists in Turkey Friday called for an "uprising" following a Turkish military air strike on suspected PKK militants who were in fact civilians. The PKK is considered a terrorist organisation by the Turkish government.

AFP - Kurdish separatists in Turkey on Friday called for an "uprising" 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 from the armed wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), labelled a terrorist organisation by Ankara, said in a statement.

The PKK uses the term "uprising" for sweeping civil disobedience as well as clashes with the 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 Wednesday, in an area known to be used by militants.

Turkey's ruling party on Thursday said the strike late Wednesday could have been a "blunder" that killed civilians and not Kurdish separatists and police fired 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. It is labelled a terrorist organisation by Ankara and much of the international community.

The protest in Istanbul on Thursday called by the BDP drew 2,000 people in 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.

Police also clashed with protesters in Diyarbakir and Sirnak, two mainly Kurdish towns in the southeast, firing tear gas and water cannon in response to demonstrators who threw stones and petrol bombs, local security officials said.

The pro-Kurdish Firat news agency released photos showing bodies wrapped in blankets, lying on the snow side by side, while television pictures showed angry and weeping villagers gathered around the bodies.

Locals used mules to carry the dead down from snowy mountain slopes in Uludere district, which lies about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the Iraq border, local media reported.

Kitan Encu's eyes welled with tears as she recounted how she had to identify the bodies of Kurdish relatives killed in the strike.

"They openly massacred us. Why was this blood spilled? They must answer this question," said Encu, who lost 11 family members in the air raid.

"I saw the bodies to identify them. They were all burned, completely. They were in pieces," Encu said as she sat by the bedside of her 75-year-old mother in the State Hospital of Uludere.

"The oldest one was 20 years old, they were all students," the 33-year-old said.

Clashes between Kurdish rebels and the army have escalated in recent months.

The Turkish military launched an operation on militant bases inside northern Iraq in October after a PKK attack killed 24 soldiers in the border town of Cukurca, the army's biggest loss since 1993.

Date created : 2011-12-30

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