ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) slammed Turkish authorities on Saturday for the killing of a civilian by an armed drone in the Hakkari Province, as the country’s Interior Minister praised the drone program.
At a press conference in the city of Hakkari, MP Bedia Ozgokce of the HDP said the victim, Mehmet Temel who died in a Turkish drone (UAV) strike on Thursday was 35 and married.
During the conference Ozgokce streamed online, she described the killing of Temel and wounding of three others with him, Ismail Aydin, Musa Tarhan, and Ibrahim Sak in the Talone (Ogul) village near the border with the Kurdistan Region as a war crime.
Different Turkish authorities had earlier given conflicting statements regarding the deadly incident first brought to attention by HDP's Hakkari lawmaker Nihat Akdogan.
Interior Ministry claimed that the army had killed four "terrorists" in an operation while the Ankara-appointed Hakkari governor's office acknowledged the drone strike had targeted a group of civilians, giving the names Akdogan tweeted.
However, the governorate labeled the group as "collaborators," accusing them of working with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters, without further elaboration.
In an online press release, the HDP questioned if the governorate was a court to determine that the targeted civilians were collaborators.
"Who gave the order to bomb civilians?" asked the HDP.
HDP also stated that a person who drove the wounded in his car to a local hospital in Hakkari was now under arrest.
After the incident, there was a heightened military presence inside the city of Hakkari to prevent protests.
Ozgokce revealed that Turkish soldiers with four armored vehicles early Saturday morning prevented villagers and lawmakers from holding a funeral for Temel in his village's mosque after his body was brought back from the neighboring Van province where it was autopsied.
She added that government forces used gas canisters and rubber bullets against the loved ones of the victims, beating and hitting them when they wanted to see the wounded at the local hospital.
"They were also physically prevented from filing a criminal complaint," Ozgokce said, telling reporters that her party would release a detailed report on the incident.
The Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, meanwhile, boasted of "killing many terrorists," maintaining that government forces still abided by the law.
"We can see a lot of terrorists thanks to UAVs. We have limitations. We are trying to fight terror by separating the citizens from the terrorist," Soylu said in remarks carried by the state-funded Anadolu agency.
"There might be some mistakes and deficiencies. But we are also taking precautions," he said, falling short of addressing the deadly Thursday incident.
Editing by Ava Homa