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Turkey payout to air strike victims

Turkey's deputy prime minister said the government will compensate the families of 35 civilians mistakenly killed in an air strike meant for Kurdish rebels.

Turkish F-16 jets, guided by intelligence from drones, hit a group of Kurdish smugglers in northern Iraq last week, leading to one of the highest single-day civilian death tolls in Turkey's decades-old conflict with the rebels.

The killings set off several days of violent demonstrations in mostly Kurdish cities.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said compensation would be paid to the families of the victims in a few days, but he did not specify how much.

The incident further undermined Turkey's attempts to address the grievances of the Kurds, who make up about 20% of its 74 million people and some of whom want autonomy in the south-east region where they dominate.

Mr Arinc said the government was exploring ways to increase the amount of the compensation. He also said an investigation into the botched air strike is underway, and added that artillery units fired warning shots ahead of the attack but the civilians did not stop. The area was illuminated, he said.

"The occurrence of the incident was in no way intentional," he said. "All the findings here were determined as warranting an operation."

Kurdish rebels have routinely used the border region to launch attacks on Turkish targets, slipping into Turkey on some of the same rugged paths used by fuel and cigarette smugglers.

Since the smugglers' deaths, the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, labelled a terrorist group by Turkey and the West, threatened retaliation and urged protesters to mobilise.

The group has fought for autonomy in the country's largely Kurdish south-east since 1984. The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people so far.

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