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Turkey’s far-right leader condemns US for downing of drone in Syria

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The leader of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has condemned the shooting down of a Turkish drone by the United States in northeast Syria last week, describing it as “unlawful and wrong.”

The Pentagon said US F-16 warplanes last Thursday shot down a drone belonging to NATO ally Turkey that was deemed a potential threat to American forces in Syria.

Turkish military officials initially denied that the drone belonged to the armed forces, but the Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed last Friday that the drone was Turkey’s. Some reports said it belonged to Turkish intelligence agency MİT.

MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, an ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, talked about the incident at his party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday.

Bahçeli asked the United States why it has deployed troops in Syria and what its goal is in keeping “terrorists” on guard around the oil wells in the region, in reference to Kurdish militia groups such as the  Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), considered by Turkey to be linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The United States has approximately 900 troops deployed in Syria as part of international efforts to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, and carries out frequent raids targeting ISIL militants.

Recalling the Pentagon’s statement that Turkey’s drone was downed for “self-defense,” Bahçeli asked if Turkey also has the right to defend itself.

The incident took place as Turkey conducts airstrikes targeting Kurdish forces in the area following a suicide bombing on Oct. 1 in Ankara that was claimed by the PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community.

“The US literally opened fire on our UCAV from the trenches of the PKK/YPG. The US is in the same basket with the PKK/YPG. We have never forgotten the ‘hood incident,’ and will never forget it. They [the US] should not get in our way, that’s it,” said Bahçeli.

The “hood incident” took place in northern Iraq in July 2003 when a group of Turkish special forces operating in the area were arrested by US soldiers and led away to be interrogated, in the back of a truck with hoods over their heads. Around 100 American soldiers stormed the barracks used by the Turkish troops, arresting 11 soldiers and six civilians and taking them to the regional capital of Kirkuk. They were released after 60 hours in response to protests by top Turkish leaders, but the incident was viewed by many Turks as a deliberate insult.

President Erdoğan also spoke about the downing of the Turkish drone in Syria following a Cabinet meeting on Monday evening and said Turkey would retaliate when the time is right.

“There is no doubt that this incident is burned into our national memory, and when the time comes, action will be taken,” Erdoğan said.

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