Istanbul, April 15 () - A delegation from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which went to Turkey’s eastern province of Ağrı to investigate the recent deadly clash between security forces and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, has found that an “information flaw and an intelligence failure” were the main factors that led to the clash.
“If 10,000 bullets were shot here and there was such a big group as the General Staff stated, it means that there has been an information flaw and an intelligence failure. There is supposed to be the MİT [National Intelligence Organization] and the policte here. This incident might not have taken place if everything was in place” Cemil Erhan told reporters late on April 13.
Erhan, who is a chief advisor to CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and is the party’s parliamentary candidate from Ağrı, was assigned by Kılıçdaroğlu to head the delegation.
He underlined that a “Spring Festival” has been held in the Yukarıtütek village of Diyadin in Ağrı for the last three years, but this is the first time that such an incident has taken place at the time of the festival.
“It is noteworthy that this incident coincides with the pre-election period. Frankly speaking, if measures were taken before the soldiers’ arrival in the area, the soldiers might not have encountered these [people] described as ‘terrorists’ by the General Staff” Erhan stated.
Five PKK militants were killed and four Turkish soldiers were injured in Ağrı on April 11, in clashes that erupted after PKK militants opened fire on security forces, the military said in a statement over the weekend. The PKK on April 13 denied that its militants attacked first, also arguing that only one civilian and one PKK militant were killed in the clashes.
Erhan also said two people had died in the clash.
“Locals here say one of the two is from Diyadin, while the other is a guerilla” he said.
“More soldiers might have been wounded. It is said that when the soldiers were shot, it was not their bodies but their feet that were targeted. The people who died, one of whom was a civilian, threw themselves [in front of the soldiers] as human shields” Erhan said, adding that Ağrı Mayor Sırrı Sakık confirmed this account of events.
“Unfortunately, it seems like this operation was made to have an impact on the resolution process,” he said, referring to the stalled government-led process aimed at ending the three-decade long conflict between Turkey’s security forces and the PKK.
“This feeling of doubtfulness among the entire Diyadin people, this complete silence, and the fact that all workplaces have been closed, all indicate this [motive aimed at the process]” Erhan added.
The pro-Kurdish news agency Dicle News Agency (DİHA) said the military had fired on a “tree planting” event and that one civilian, Cezmi Budak, had been killed by a bullet to the throat.
Speaking at the April 12 funeral for Budak, the HDP’s provincial chair in Ağrı, Sabri Tayfur, said Budak had entered the area as “human shield.”
In remarks delivered earlier on April 13, however, Brigadier General Ertuğrulgazi Özkürkçü had already denied such an account, while praising the locals in the area.
“As the TSK, we don’t accept the simple definition of ‘citizen’ for those who helped our wounded soldiers in Ağrı by being a ‘human shield.’ The spirit that our citizens displayed here is beyond all kinds of appreciation. It is a most beautiful reaction showing that our citizens in the region are against terror” Öztürk said.
‘Holding sides of sleeping bags’
Only a few hours after Erhan spoke to reporters in Ağrı, the Interior Ministry released a statement on the issue in the early morning of April 14.
The statement reiterated the government’s argument that PKK militants were coercing the voters in the region ahead of the June 7 election as of April 4.
Following a tip-off saying PKK militants would come to a tree-planting event on April 11, gendarmerie units were tasked so that “members of the separatist terrorist organization would be prevented from making an armed propaganda aimed at citizens” the statement posted on the ministry’s webpage said.
The Interior Ministry reiterated the TSK’s statement in regards to the killing of five PKK militants, while saying that one PKK member was wounded and captured.
Although citizens were not allowed to enter the scene of the clash, some of them entered by foot, the ministry said. In the meantime, the clash stopped as security forces rapidly prepared to transfer the wounded, it said.
Despite warnings that the area was a crime scene, 20-25 citizens approached the forces on the scene and offered assistance to the gendarmes, who were preparing to carry the wounded in sleeping bags, it said. “Immediately afterwards, by means of holding the sides of the sleeping-bags, they joined the activity of carrying” the statement said.
However, the wording in the ministry’s statement was not quite in harmony with a statement by the TSK.
“Our citizens, who came to the area during the air evacuation of our four personnel who were wounded during the clashes with the terrorists of the separatist terror organization, at Ağrı’s Diyadin district’s Yukarıtek village on April 11, deserve admiration. [This act] has shown the commitment and love our citizens have towards Turkish soldiers and has also formed a good example of our nation’s unity and togetherness” the TSK said in the April 13 statement released on the General Staff’s webpage.
Erdoğan: State’s stance on resolution process firm
Meanwhile, a meeting with a delegation from the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM) offered an opportunity for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to reiterate his accusations against the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which he held responsible for the clash in Ağrı.
“If there is a provocation, then it is not by the state, it is a provocation fictionalized by the party which is manipulated by the terrorist organization” Erdoğan said on April 14.
Earlier, Erdoğan and government officials had accused the PKK of “trying to pressure people to vote for the HDP,” while the HDP side argued the operation was “pre-planned and fake.”
“The incident that took place in Ağrı doesn’t have anything to do with the state’s stance concerning the resolution process. On quite the opposite, this incident is yet another proof for insincerity of the separatist terrorist organization and the political party which is on the same line with it,” Erdoğan said.
Also on April 14, HDP Co-Chair Figen Yüksekdağ reiterated her party’s arguments.
“The government and the TSK carried out a provocation in Ağrı hand-in-hand and in cooperation with each other” Yüksekdağ told reporters.