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 Turkey: Clashes as police break up Kurd protest air strike on civilians

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Turkey: Clashes as police break up Kurd protest air strike on civilians  29.12.2011    

Riot police stand guard as Kurds protest after Turkey's air strike in southeastern Turkey killing 35 civilian Kurds, many of them believed to be smugglers mistaken for guerrillas, in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday, Dec. 29. 2011. The killings spurred angry demonstrations in Istanbul and several cities in the mostly Kurdish southeast, and were the latest incident of violence to undermine the Turkish government's efforts to appease the aggrieved Kurdish minority by granting it more cultural freedoms. Photo: AP

Locals gather in front of the bodies of people who were killed in a warplane attack in the Ortasu village of Uludere, in the Sirnak province, on December 29, 2011. Turkish warplanes killed 23 Kurdish villagers in an air strike near the Iraqi border when smugglers were apparently mistaken for PKK militants, a pro-Kurdish official said. Provincial officials found 23 bodies at Ortasu village in Sirnak province, said Ertan Eris, a local councillor of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BPD). Photo: Getty Images.
December 29, 2011

ISTANBUL, — Turkish police used tear gas and water cannon to break up a demonstration in Istanbul by around 2,000 Kurds protesting against an air strike in southeastern Turkey [ northern Kurdistan] that killed 35 Kurdish villagers.

Several hundred youths, many of them with scarves over their faces, threw stones at the police and smashed police and civilian vehicles during the demonstration in the city's main Taksim Square.

Police responded with water cannon and tear gas grenades and made several arrests.

Demonstrators brandished portraits of those killed in the air strike, which Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party earlier said may have been a blunder.

"According to initial reports, these people were smugglers and not terrorists," said the party's vice-president Huseyin Celik.

"Thirty-five people were killed and another person wounded in an aerial operation," the local Sirnak provincial governor's office said in a statement.

"A crisis centre has been set up in the area and prosecutors and security officers have been sent there," Governor Vahdettin Ozkan said.

Provincial officials said earlier they had found 23 bodies at the Kurdish village of Ortasu in Sirnak, according to Ertan Eris, a local councillor of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BPD).

Eris told pro-Kurdish Roj TV from the bombing site that the dead were among a group of up to 40 people, ranging in age from 16 to 20, who were engaged in smuggling gas and sugar across the mountain border with Iraqi Kurdistan region.

Kurdish media and local sources close to the PKK have presented slain rebels as civilians after previous incidents in the area, where the militants are known to operate.

Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous Kurdish region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

The PKK is considered as 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list. 

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.

The army then killed 36 Kurdish rebels in Kazan Valley in Hakkari province, near the Iraqi border.

Media reports in Turkey and abroad, as well as the BDP, have accused Turkey of using chemical weapons against the rebels, allegations strongly denied by the military.

In November Turkey bombed the Sulaimaniyah and Erbil provinces of Iraq's autonomous northern Kurdish region, wounding a civilian, Kurdish officials said. Since August 17, Turkish jets repeatedly carried out air strikes against the Kurdish PKK separatist group's bases in Iraqi Kurdistan region, under justification of chasing elements of the anti-Ankara PKK, forcing large numbers of Kurdish citizens of those areas to desert their home villages, including an air raid that killed 7 Kurdish civilians in a village north of Kurdistan’s Sulaimaniyah city on August 21st.

Copyright © 2011, respective author or news agency, AFP | | Agencies


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