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The BBC's Chris Morris
"Turkey says every possible precaution is taken to avoid casualties"
 real 28k

KDP spokesman Hoshyar Zgbari
"Turkey is very important to us in maintaining the no-fly zone"
 real 28k

Friday, 18 August, 2000, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
Turkey defends anti-rebel raid
Kurd shepherds
Civilian Kurdish shepherds were mistakebly targetted
Turkey's Foreign Ministry has said Turkish forces always try to avoid civilian casualties during operations against Kurdish guerrillas in Northern Iraq.

The move follows reports that 38 civilians died during air raids against Kurdish rebel movement, the PKK, earlier this week.

A spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which backs Turkey's action against the rebels, says it believes pilots attacked a camp they mistakenly believed belonged to the PKK.

The attack took place in a mountainous region close to the Turkish border, an area controlled by Kurdish forces loyal to rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan since 1991.

Shepherds bombed

According to some reports, Turkish planes dropped 12 bombs on a group of shepherds and their families near the border area between Turkey, Iraq and Iran on 15 August.

Map of border area
Kurdish TV showed pictures of wounded survivors of the attack, in which at least 38 people are believed to have died.

One woman said the group had been grazing their flocks in the summer pastures close to the borders when the planes struck.

Local people have reportedly said there were no PKK forces in the area at the time of the attack.

The KDP says it believes the mistake was not deliberate, but is pressing for an explanation and compensation from Turkey.

An unnamed KDP source added that Turkish authorities did not consult the party before launching the raids, which coincided with the anniversary of the PKK's founding.


Turkey originally denied all knowledge of the incident, but later admitted a raid had taken place.

Abdullah Ocalan
Rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan has run the area since 1991
However, according to foreign ministry spokesman Hussein Dirioz, "necessary measures" were taken during the mission to prevent civilian deaths.

"It is under investigation whether any harm was inflicted on civilians or not during that operation," he said.

The incident follows reports last year from Iran that an Iranian soldier was killed and several others wounded during a similar anti-rebel raid.

Ankara confirmed that raids had taken place, but refused to pay damages.

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See also:

09 Feb 00 | Europe
PKK ends war with Turkey
12 Jan 00 | Europe
Analysis: Turkey's Ocalan dilemma
01 Apr 00 | Europe
Turkish troops pursue Kurds
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