Minister Nihat Ergün says Uludere was caused by error

Minister Nihat Ergün says Uludere was caused by error

Nihat Ergün (Photo: AA)

February 03, 2012, Friday/ 15:51:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Science and Technology Minister Nihat Ergün in a comment he made on Thursday about an airstrike by the Turkish Air Force in late December that killed 34 civilians from Uludere, Şırnak province, stated that the incident was the result of a mistake.

“When the results of the investigation are out, the person who said, ‘I thought they were terrorists, not ordinary smugglers' will be punished, just as those who say they thought terrorists were smugglers answer before the law,” Ergün said, in televised remarks on Thursday night during a program on TGRT Haber.

He said the government's immediate response was effective, noting that ministers, the governor and the district governor rushed to Uludere hours after the airstrike. “A mistake was made somewhere. We are investigating it, and we will take the necessary steps,” he said.

“There is a cost to mistaking a smuggler for a terrorist. Even if there were terrorists among this group, this wouldn't be necessary.”

In a related development, the General Staff announced on Friday that it was going to file charges against Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Co-chairwoman Gültan Kışanak over remarks she made about the Uludere incident. Addressing Prime Minsiter Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, she said, “You are unable to herd a handful of generals,” criticizing the intelligence failure that appears to have caused the airstrike.

Thirty-four people crossing the border from northern Iraq into Turkey on Dec. 28 were killed when Turkish jets bombed the region, later saying the villagers -- who were smuggling in fuel and cigarettes from across the border -- were terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants entering Turkey. Three separate investigations, including civilian and military probes, are under way into the incident. There have been claims that the airstrike was launched in spite of a warning from units stationed in the region that the border-crossers were ordinary villagers and not PKK members.

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