Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has attracted widespread criticism for laughing in front of the cameras in his first public appearance since the death on Thursday of 36 Turkish troops in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.
The soldiers were killed in an airstrike by Syrian government forces, sending waves of deep shock and grief across Turkey.
The number of casualties was announced by the Hatay governor on the night of the tragedy, although Erdoğan and officials from his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government opted to remain silent.
Erdoğan made a public appearance at a meeting with his party deputies in İstanbul on Saturday where he announced that 36 soldiers were killed in Idlib, instead of the initially reported 33.
In his speech he discussed a recent phone call with US President Donald Trump about Syria. Erdoğan laughed at the end of his remarks and drew applause and laughter from the AKP deputies at the meeting.
People shared the video on social media showing Erdoğan and his deputies laughing and expressed their outrage as the pain from the loss of the 36 soldiers is still fresh.
Some accused Erdoğan of sending the soldiers to their death for his personal ambitions in Syria.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who spoke to reporters in a wavering voice on Saturday, said he was shocked to see Erdoğan laughing on such a day when the nation is filled with sorrow.
“The slain soldiers have not even been laid to rest. What kind of a speech was that? What kind of laughter was that?” he asked.
Turkey has sent thousands of troops and heavy weapons into Idlib to support rebels attempting to repel an offensive by Syrian government and Russian forces aimed at taking back the rebel stronghold.