Better Coordination Could Have Prevented Roboski Deaths, MP Says

13/01/2013  RUDAW By MASHALLAH DAKAK – DIYARBAKIR, Turkey – A Turkish airstrike that killed 34 Kurdish people from the village of Roboski more than a year ago was based on flawed intelligence, but it was still possible to stop the attack or prevent so many deaths, a member of the investigating committee into the incident said.

Gulsen Orhan, an MP from the Kurdish city of Van and a member of the parliament committee investigating the attack, added that the December 2011 airstrike was ordered by a senior official, without coordination with intelligence contacts on the ground. She said that intelligence reports a month before the attack had indicated that a convoy from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), accompanied by a senior party official, was to cross the border the night the villagers were killed.

But Orhan, a member of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), said that if commanders and pilots had acted responsibly, either the attack could have been prevented, or stopped after the first sortie when it was clear that the caravan did not belong to guerrillas but border smugglers. “It is clear that they were smugglers. Loading their goods and their trek to the border took three hours,” Orhan told Rudaw. “It was possible during that time to call the intelligence contacts in the village and find out whether they were PKK members or smugglers,” she added.

“When the first group was bombed, the other groups did not run away and remained still. From this moment forward one could tell they were smugglers. I say it again, these mistakes should not have happened in sequence,” she said, adding that some of the deaths could have been prevented if the pilots had thought to stop the attacks. Orhan believes that a little coordination between military and intelligence officials in the area would have prevented the tragedy, in which 17 of the dead were children.

“The soldiers said that preparations for a land operation were made that night, but the air raid was carried out according to commands from a senior official and that they could do nothing about it,” Orhan said.“The mayor and other officials said they learned about the incident from local residents after it happened. This shows that the soldiers in the region act independently, while they should be under the command of government officials. This is a real problem,” Orhan complained, saying the findings of the investigation would be released later this month. In defense of her party, Orhan said that the AKP has taken serious steps toward democracy in Turkey by apologizing to the people for the Roboski and other massacres perpetrated in the past eight decades. But, she said, opposition parties try to create obstacles for the AKP government.