Turkey vows revenge as 13 kidnapped Turks killed in Gara, northern Iraq - live blog

Turkish Armed Forces ended a military operation in the Gara region of northern Iraq, targeting Kurdish forces after the death of 13 kidnapped Turks, including military and police personnel, who were executed by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) according to Turkish officials.

Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said that 48 PKK militants were killed during the military operation against the PKK, while three Turkish soldiers were killed and three others wounded.

Launched on Feb. 10, Operation Claw Tiger 2 was aimed at securing Turkey’s border and find citizens who had been kidnapped previously, Akar said.

Six soldiers and two police officers, kidnapped in separate incidents more than five years ago, are among those identified as killed in a cave in northern Iraq, the Malatya Governor’s office said. Officials are working to identify the remaining three people.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has vowed revenge against the PKK by capturing and “tearing up into a thousand pieces” the group’s number two leader, Murat Karayılan, believed to be in the PKK headquarters in northern Iraq.

(All times local, GMT+3)

20:10 - Victims shot in head at point blank range, says Malatya governor

According to the Governor of Malatya, Aydın Baruş, the majority of bodies discovered in a cave in Gara, northern Iraq, were shot in the head at point blank range, with one body showing a bullet wound in the chest.

Baruş also rejected claims by the PKK that the 13 people were killed in a bomb attack, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported, calling them a "lowly provocation.’’ 

20:10 - Pro-Kurdish HDP says Turkish gov’t must give account of deaths

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has called on the government to give account for those killed in Gara to the families of the victims and Turkish society as whole. 

"The ruling power is in a position to give account...’’  T24 news site cited the HDP as saying, "not hold our party accountable.’’

The HDP had previously exerted efforts to release the 13 people taken hostage in the region, the party said, noting that its question on the matter in parliament had remained unanswered.

The HDP also called on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to release all those whom the group continues to hold hostage.

The Turkish government accuses the HDP of links to the PKK, a claim the HDP denies.

19:30 - Current developments a deja-vu of 2015 - ex-military adviser

Metin Gürcan, a former Turkish military adviser, has likened the atmosphere in the aftermath of the Gara killings to the end of the Kurdish peace process in 2015, when Turkey was reeling from terror attacks and political uncertainty amid elections.

"I can't be the only one who feels like we are re-experiencing the July 7, 2015 - Nov. 1, 2015 period," Gürcan, a founding member of the opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), said on Twitter, in an apparent reference to the government’s scrambling for support under the name of fighting terror.

Turkey held general elections on June 7, 2015, two days after a terror attack in the southeast of the country that was later claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS). The elections saw the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lose its supermajority in parliament for the first time after coming into power in 2002.

The government in July 2015 announced that it was effectively shelving the years-long Kurdish peace process, which was followed by a number of other deadly bombings claimed by ISIS and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkey on Nov. 1, 2015 headed to the ballots yet again, with the AKP re-emerging as the ruling power with increased support.

16:50 - 'From now on, nothing will be the same,' says Erdoğan ally

The leader of Turkey’s far-right Natonalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli said that anyone seeking to exonorate or back those who were killed in Gara is a terrorists.

“From now on, nothing will be same,’’ Birgün newspaper cited Bahçeli as saying.

“Nobody will be able to hide behind templates,’’ the MHP leader added, in an apparent jab at the the pro-Kurdish HDP.

16:45 - Erdoğan aide targets pro-Kurdish opposition over soldiers’ deaths

Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was the political wing of the PKK, and accused the party of complicity in the death of 13 people during a Turkish military operation in northern Iraq, in a series of tweets on Sunday.

Turkey will “take necessary steps against individuals and groups glorifying and encouraging terrorism at home and abroad,” Altun said.

“Specifically, HDP, the PKK’s political wing in Turkey, must answer some tough questions today: Have you no shame? Are you so afraid of your gun-waving masters that you can’t even condemn this crime against humanity? Today, your silence means tacit consent - and complicity,’’ Altun added.

The top diplomat also condemned Turkey’s western allies, accusing them of a “deafening silence in the face of PKK’s terror attacks and heinous crimes.”

14:34 - Pro-Kurdish lawmakers under investigation over social media posts

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched investigations against two pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers over “provocative social media posts”, pertaining to the death of 13 Turks in northern Iraq, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Deputies Hüda Kaya and Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu are accused of “insulting the Turkish nation, republic and the state institutions,” Anadolu said.

14:15 - Erdoğan aide accuses world of remaining silent over Gara killings

Spokesman for the Turkish Presidency Ibrahim Kalın accused the world of remaining silent regarding the killing of 13 Turks in northern Iraq, noting that silence meant complicity.

"The PKK executes 13 civilian captives in a cave in #Gara, Iraq. It attacks Turkish & Iraqi security forces & civilians. It continues its terrorist attacks in northern Syria,’’ Kalın said on Twitter. "The world is silent. This silence is a shameful act of complicity.’’

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