The rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on Friday urged Kurds in Turkey to stage an “uprising” after an air force raid killed 35 villagers near the Iraq border.
“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 PKK, labeled a terrorist organization by Ankara, said in a statement.
Turkey’s ruling party on Thursday said the strike could have been a “blunder” that killed civilians and not Kurdish separatists.
“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.
Turkey’s military command said it had launched an air raid on PKK militants after a spy drone spotted a group moving toward its sensitive southeastern border under cover of darkness late Wednesday.
“The area where this happened is called Sinat-Haftanin, in northern Iraq, where there is no civilian population, and where the terrorist organization has bases,” a military statement said, referring to the outlawed PKK.
But the country's 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 labeled a terrorist organization by Ankara and much of the international community.
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.