President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan praised the effectiveness of armed drones in counterterror operations Wednesday, saying they have been successful in eliminating the threats posed by terror groups.
Erdoğan's comments came following a claim made by opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, who said there were civilian casualties in counterterror operations carried out with armed drones.
"While we see our destiny and the fate of our country as one, the deputies of the main opposition party, unfortunately, have been eager to stand on the same line with terrorists. Even worse, the leader of this party, rather than siding with the people and questioning the actions of these deputies, does not hold back from having the same attitude. The allegations about the use of the armed drones, which have been effective in counterterrorism operations, are the latest examples of this crookedness," President Erdoğan said, adding that Turkey implements the policy of paying the utmost attention to preventing civilian casualties while carrying out both domestic and cross-border counterterror operations.
Last week, CHP Istanbul Deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu made allegations that innocent civilians were killed in operations using armed drones. On Sept. 6, Tanrıkulu tweeted: "The unmanned combat aerial vehicle Bayraktar struck civilians, innocent [people]. I will continue to follow this issue."
"The terror group may have the right to be bothered by the methods Turkey employs and its success in counterterrorism in recent days. Some powers that support terror groups may also be bothered by this, however, no deputy of this country has the right to be bothered by this. Claiming that civilians are being targeted, which is an allegation that can be moved to the international arena by terror groups, has nothing to do with politics and human rights," the president added.
Recently, pro-PKK media outlets have made claims that civilians were targeted in counterterror operations.
The leader of the PKK, which is also considered a terror group by the U.S., the EU, and Turkey, Murat Karayılan, complained about the effectiveness of unmanned combat aerial vehicles, saying: "Turkish soldiers are not like they were before. They have changed their tactics. In the past, we were confronted by them. Now, we can't hide. Soldiers are listening, watching us and hunting us as if they were hunting rabbits."
The president criticized CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and other deputies, saying, "What the armed drones do is destroy terrorists that betray this country and the people."
Meanwhile, no civilians have ever been harmed in Turkish counterterror operations, including drone-supported ones, the Turkish General Staff said in a statement late Tuesday, refuting a deputy's allegations that civilians had been killed by armed drones.
"The Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] has never engaged in any practice that has posed a threat to civilians during counterterror operations. In the counterterror operations that were carried out by armed drones on Aug. 31 in Hakkari's Oğulköy district, the same principles and methods were applied in order not to harm civilians," the military said.
In response to Tanrıkulu's statement, the National Defense Ministry issued a statement on Sept. 6 refuting his claims.
"The malicious allegations over the arms of defense that are used in our active and productive fight against terrorism do not reflect reality. None of our citizens were harmed in the operations against terrorists, conducted with unmanned combat aerial vehicles," the statement said.
As part of Turkey's domestic efforts in national weapons and defense systems, companies are set to launch more advanced UAVs, one of the most important steps toward achieving the 2023 vision goals concerning national defense systems. UAVs, which play an effective role in national defense systems, are being effectively used in the fight against terrorism. Currently, some 10 to 15 UAVs are serving in terror zones. At present, 30 Bayraktar UAVs continue to operate in the inventory of the TSK and the General Directorate of Security.