Kurdish party says Turkey air strike kills 10 civilians; army denies

AFP , Sunday 2 Aug 2015

Ten civilians were killed this weekend in a Turkish air strike against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq, a Turkish pro-Kurdish party said Sunday, but the army denied the bombing had taken place near a populated area.

Among the civilians killed were children and a pregnant woman, and 15 other people were wounded in the pre-dawn strike by Turkish war planes on the village of Zarkel in northern Iraq on Saturday, the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said in a statement.

The air strike has become the most controversial single action yet in Turkey's campaign against the Kurdish militants' bases in northern Iraq that began over a week ago.

"Turkey is rapidly drifting into a powerful storm," the HDP added.

The Turkish army said that it had reviewed the air strike following media claims of civilian casualties, but said its warplanes had hit a "terrorist camp" on Qandil Mountain in northern Iraq and not a civilian village.

"The target that was hit was not a village but a shelter for members of the Separatist Terror Group," said the army, using its customary reference for the PKK, which it never refers to by name.

"It was determined that no civilian locations were to be found in the vicinity affected by the bombing," the army added.

The Turkish foreign ministry has already vowed a full investigation into the claims and said a joint study would be conducted with the regional authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan.

But the foreign ministry also accused the PKK of using "civilians as human shields."

The PKK's insurgency for greater rights and powers for Turkey's Kurdish minority, begun more than 30 years ago, has left tens of thousands dead. A ceasefire declared in 2013 has been shattered by the current violence.

The local Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq said Saturday the PKK should take the war with Ankara out of their region to prevent Turkish air strikes from causing civilian casualties.

According to the official Anatolia news agency, the Turkish air strikes have so far killed 260 PKK fighters and wounded up to 400.

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