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May 18, 2012, Friday

Uludere incident becomes even more controversial

The Uludere incident, in which a military air strike killed 34 smugglers, claiming that it mistook them for terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) members in Şırnak’s Uludere district, is five months old now.

Yet, it is still fresh as the last five months have brought no solid development to dismiss many doubts over whether the General Staff indeed mistook the smugglers for terrorists or whether it intentionally attacked them. In the latest development, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently published a report that says US officials, who provided the Turkish side with intelligence that led to the killing of 34 civilians in Uludere, had actually suggested that the Turkish General Staff obtain additional surveillance to better identify the targets before carrying out an attack. The General Staff, however, ignored the suggestion. Emre Aköz from the Sabah daily says that in the five months since the tragic Uludere attack took place, an investigation has been launched and a parliamentary commission has been established; yet no progress has been made and no questions have been answered. Moreover, the saddest thing is that the most solid answer has come from a foreign source.

Yeni Şafak’s Abdülkadir Selvi recalls that on Jan. 26, he was among the journalists who met with US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone, to ask him questions. Answering a question about the Uludere incident, the ambassador said the US had no involvement in selecting the targets. Selvi says Ricciardone, carefully selecting the words he was going to use, said: “It is true that we are providing Turkey with intelligence about terrorists; but deciding on targets is Turkey’s decision only. Turkey has its own capacity to determine its targets.” Apparently, Selvi says, some countries that have an agreement with the US demand US help for determining the targets, too, but that Turkey does not. However, the columnist says, there was recently a heated debate in the US, with some saying “we are giving intelligence obtained by Predators to some countries, but how do the governments of these countries use it?” Selvi says the WSJ article was presented with the aim of giving another example in this debate. Yet we already knew that there is a secret plot in this incident. Selvi notes that when light is shed on the incident, the secret cooperation between the military and the PKK will be revealed, which is why the General Staff is trying so hard to cover this incident up, he argues.

Hürriyet’s Taha Akyol says it has been almost five months since the attack in Uludere took place. And in these five months, it has been used as an instrument for propaganda by the PKK, and both the government and the General Staff have failed the test of handling the aftermath of the incident. According to many columnists, NGO representatives and political figures, it is a political failure to ignore people’s questions on the subject. Couldn’t the military have guessed that the targeted people might be smugglers, which is a common practice in the region? Why did the military avoid explicitly naming whom the “false intelligence” came from -- as the General Staff first said that they carried out the attack due to false intelligence? Why was it claimed that the source of the false intelligence was the National Intelligence Organization (MİT)? These are critical questions waiting to be answered. One can easily create a conspiracy theory depending on his/her political stance by looking at the poor data we have about the incident. And considering that the most common scenario among Kurds says, “Although the government knew they were only smugglers, it intentionally killed them just because they were Kurds,” it was a political mistake of the government not to reveal the truth as it made the Kurds in the region feel more distant from the state.

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