ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey’s prime minister condemned dissemination of a video purporting to show a dead Kurdish militant dragged through the streets tied by the neck to an armored police vehicle, images that could further inflame tension in the country’s southeast.
“It is unacceptable to treat any corpse this way, even if it is a dead terrorist,” Ahmet Davutoglu said, while not explicitly confirming the veracity of the video and photographs widely posted on Twitter.
Davutoglu, whose AK Party faces national elections in November, was speaking in a live interview with HaberTurk TV about the video. It was apparently taken in the province of Sirnak, focus of clashes since a ceasefire between the army and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) broke down in July.
“Our Interior Ministry ... will conduct a comprehensive investigation, not into the incident itself, but into the way in which this incident was reflected to the world,” Davutoglu said.
Security forces since Friday killed 22 PKK militants in clashes in the town of Silvan, which had been under a round-the-clock curfew until Monday and seized weapon stockpiles, the provincial governor in Diyarbakir said.
Two soldiers were killed in separate attacks in Gaziantep and Osmaniye on Monday, the army said.
Turkish warplanes on Monday bombed PKK targets identified by drones near the southeastern town of Semdinli, security sources said, with air and ground operations continuing and special forces being deployed by helicopter.
More than 120 members of the security forces and hundreds of militants have been killed since July, leaving a three-year-old peace process in tatters and raising concern about the security of the parliamentary election.
ROPE AROUND NECK
Video footage purporting to show the dead militant first appeared on social media. It showed a body in a red shirt and dark trousers, a rope around the neck, being dragged through darkened streets. Part of the video appeared to have been filmed from inside the vehicle.
Selahattin Demirtas, the HDP leader, retweeted one of the images.
“Take a good look at this photo. It was taken the day before yesterday (Friday) in Sirnak. No one should forget, because we will not forget,” Demirtas said in the tweet on Sunday.
HDP spokesman Cem Bico said the dead man had been identified as the brother-in-law of a party lawmaker.
The PKK has been fighting for greater Kurdish autonomy for more than three decades, and is listed as a terrorist organization in Turkey, Europe and the United States.
Braving nationalist anger, the government introduced tentative reforms on Kurdish rights and in 2012 launched negotiations to try to end a PKK insurgency that has killed 40,000 people since 1984. A fragile ceasefire had been holding since March 2013 but ended after violence erupted following the election that deprived the AKP of its single-party majority.
If the video proves to be genuine, it would represent a major misstep for the government, and could deepen divisions between security forces and Turkey’s large Kurdish community, according to terrorism expert Suleyman Ozeren, from the think tank Global Strategy and Policy.
“A couple of years ago these kinds of actions were not being seen, I hope this is an isolated event. When police or security personnel do things like that they are helping the PKK.”
Reporting by Jonny Hogg, Ercan Gurses and Gulsen Solaker in Ankara, Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul; Writing by Jonny Hogg; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Angus MacSwan
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