Turkey will compensate the families of 35 civilians mistakenly killed in an airstrike meant for Kurdish rebels, the deputy prime minister said, even as he insisted that military officials followed proper procedures, including firing warning shots.
The airstrikes, guided by intelligence from drones and fired by Turkish F-16 jets, hit a group of Kurdish smugglers in northern Iraq last week. The loss of life was one of the highest single-day civilian death tolls in Turkey's decades-old conflict with the rebels.
The incident set off violent protests in mostly Kurdish cities and further undermined Turkey's attempts to address the grievances of the Kurds, who make up about 20 percent of its 74 million people and some of whom want autonomy in the southeast region where they dominate.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc did not specify late Monday how much money will be paid to the families of the victims, but said the payments would come within days. He also said the government was exploring ways to increase the amount of the compensation.
Arinc noted that an investigation into the botched airstrike is underway. But he added that artillery units fired warning shots ahead of the airstrikes but the civilians did not stop. The area was illuminated, he said.
"The occurrence of the incident was in no way intentional," Arinc said. "All the findings here were determined as warranting an operation."
Kurdish rebels have routinely used the border region to launch attacks on Turkish targets, slipping into Turkey on some of the same rugged paths used by fuel and cigarette smugglers.
Since the smugglers' deaths, the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, labeled a terrorist group by Turkey and the West, threatened retaliation and urged protesters to mobilize. The group has fought for autonomy in the country's largely Kurdish southeast since 1984. The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people so far.