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Turkish Airstrike Kills Low-Level Tobacco Smugglers

By Luke Walker 12/29/11

Mistaken identity in the war against PKK militants costs 35 lives.

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Some of the dead cigarette smugglers. Photo via

The Turkish military confirmed today that its airstrike near the Iraqi border killed 35 tobacco smugglers transporting low-level contraband. They were attacked because they were thought to be PKK guerrillas. Many of the dead were children and young men. The news sparked outrage on the streets of Istanbul. Protestors and rival factions accuse Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan of treason and compare him to Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad for killing his own citizens. Opposition politician Selahattin Demirtas says, “An administration that murders its own people has no legitimacy.” The PKK, or Kurdistan Worker’s Party, is considered a terrorist organization by many nations, including the US; but it's a controversial label, which many international leaders have sought to repeal. The Turkish has long tried to subdue the influence of ethnic Kurds, through military and other means. Estimates suggest more than 40,000 lives have been lost in the struggle since the 1980s.

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