Turkey Kills 35 Civilians in Attempted Hit on Rebels
Kurdish officials claim the dead were actually teen cigarette smugglers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 29, 2011 10:00 AM CST
Locals gather in front of a truck carrying the bodies of people who were killed in a warplane attack in the Ortasu village of Uludere on December 29, 2011. WARNING: Images are disturbing.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Turkey's air force attacked suspected Kurdish rebel targets across the border in Iraq, but the roughly 35 people killed were teenage smugglers mistaken for guerrillas. A ruling party spokesman said today the victims "were not terrorists," but people smuggling cigarettes into Turkey from Iraq. He added that officials are investigating possible intelligence failures that led to the strikes. He expressed regret for the deaths and suggested the government would compensate the victims.

The Turkish military confirmed last night's raids, saying its jets struck an area of northern Iraq frequently used by the rebels to enter Turkey after drones detected a group approaching the often unmarked mountainous border. It is one of the largest one-day civilian death tolls incurred during the military's 27-year-old drive against rebels, who are fighting Turkey for autonomy in the mostly Kurdish southeast. Hundreds of Kurds staged a protest in the town of Yuksekova, in Sirnak province, to denounce the raids and call for the resignation of Turkey's interior minister, Dogan reported.