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PRES­I­DENT Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan yes­ter­day praised the ef­fec­tive­ness of armed drones in coun­tert­er­ror op­er­a­tions, 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.

PRES­I­DENT Er­doğan said: “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.” He added that Turkey im­ple­ments the pol­icy of pay­ing the ut­most at­ten­tion to pre­vent­ing civil­ian ca­su­al­ties while car­ry­ing out both do­mes­tic and cross­bor­der 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.

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