Crowd pummels district governor in village of airstrike victims
Uludere District Governor Naif Yavuz (C) was attacked in Uludere on Dec. 31, 2011. (Photo: Today's Zaman)
An angry group on Saturday assaulted a district governor who sought to offer condolences in a village in Turkey where 35 civilians were mistakenly killed in a military airstrike meant to target the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The spectacle of men throwing punches and stones at Uludere District Governor Naif Yavuz was in response to Wednesday's airstrikes. Footage of the visit of Yavuz show men booing, lunging forward and pummeling Yavuz as his aides try to hustle him down a road lined with parked cars and bleak, snow-covered slopes. At one point, dazed and disheveled, he runs down an embankment to get away from the crowd. Yavuz was taken to a hospital for a checkup, according to reports.
Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay visited bereaved families in a house and said that members of a "party," an apparent reference to the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), provoked the attack on Yavuz and that the families were disturbed by the incident and apologized for it.
Yavuz commented on the attack on Sunday at the hospital where he has been receiving treatment and thanked "the villagers who saved [me] from the hands of the provocateurs." Noting that the attacks were the work of provocateurs as he did not even hear a single negative word from the families of the victims during his visit, the district governor said despite everything he neither resented nor was angry over the incident.
The Şırnak Governor's Office also said in a statement released on Sunday that “dark circles” were behind Saturday's attack on Yavuz. “Coordinated efforts of the state's security forces and intelligence units to identify dark circles who guided these people [attackers] and to bring them to justice are still underway and the findings will soon be shared with the public,” the statement said.
According to the statement, the incident, which took place because some people were disturbed about the locals' respect for the district governor, was condemned by the families of the victims and locals as well.
The strikes by F-16 jets, guided by intelligence from drones, hit a group of smugglers and resulted in one of the highest single-day civilian death tolls in Turkey's decades-old war with the PKK, setting off several days of violent demonstrations in mostly Kurdish cities
The PKK, labeled a terrorist group by Turkey and the West, threatened retaliation and urged protesters to mobilize
Turkish officials have promised a full investigation into the botched airstrike and said those responsible will be held to account. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan telephoned the families of the victims in the village of Gülyazı in Sirnak province to express condolences, and his voice was broadcast through a loudspeaker.
"We share your grief, your pain is our pain," the state-run Anatolia news agency quoted Erdoğan as saying. "Everyone must rest assured that all kind of work is under way in relation to the issue."
TV channels showed one man telling Erdoğan on the telephone: "They didn't deserve to die in this way."
Erdoğan replies: "The issue is not that they were smugglers. You know the area, it is a very sensitive area; it is not possible for them [the military] to recognize each and every person.
Opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who is scheduled to visit the region on Sunday, said the government has yet to explain how the intelligence that led to the airstrike was compiled, and who exactly was involved.
"It seems that the incident was caused by incorrect intelligence," he said. "Who provided this intelligence to military headquarters? They say no country would bomb its own people, but it has. Who will account for this?
Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has denied reports it provided the information that led to the airstrike.
The United States recently moved four Predator drones to Turkey from Iraq to aid Ankara in its fight against the terrorists.