The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned US Ambassador David M. Satterfield to express Turkey’s reaction “in the strongest terms” to a US statement concerning the killing of 13 Turkish nationals in northern Iraq on Feb. 14.
Turkey on Sunday accused outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants of executing 13 Turkish nationals, mainly members of the security forces, whom they had held captive in a cave in the Gara region of northern Iraq, where Ankara launched an operation against the PKK on Feb. 10.
The US State Department said on Sunday it “deplores the death of Turkish citizens” but was waiting for further confirmation that Ankara’s account of the 13 men’s death was true.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU, said the 13 died when Turkish forces bombed the cave where the men were being kept.
“If reports of the death of Turkish civilians at the hands of the PKK, a designated terrorist organization, are confirmed, we condemn this action in the strongest possible terms,” the US State Department said in a statement.
The Foreign Ministry’s move came shortly after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the United States of siding with “terrorists” in northern Iraq.
“The statement made by the United States is a farce,” Erdoğan said in his first public comments on the incident on Monday.
“You said you did not support terrorists, when in fact you are on their side and behind them,” Erdoğan said in televised remarks.
Erdoğan also said no country or organization from now on could question Turkey’s military operations in Syria against the PKK and PKK-linked groups.
In the meantime, the president denied claims by some opposition figures and journalists who said the government had not taken any action to rescue the hostages from the PKK although some had been held for five or six years.
Erdoğan said his government had been considering ways to rescue the hostages and had made many efforts toward this end. He said the government decided to rescue them in a military operation that night, initially killing 42 PKK militants and that the PKK killed the hostages in retaliation.
Erdoğan said the details of the operation and how it unfolded would be explained in parliament by the defense and interior ministers as well as the chief of general staff.