Errant US missile raises ire of Turkish villagers

The bomb does no physical damage but hardens the antiwar sentiment of local residents.

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

People in this village of about 300 never expected to be on the map of the war against Iraq. But Monday, the day after a US missile was dropped into the fields outside their village and two others dropped nearby a few hours later, people were filled with a quiet anger that was broadcast all over Turkey.

"Do you think it could be an accident?" snapped Abdurrahman Yucel, a father of seven who was feeding his cows when he heard the strange whiz and crash about a quarter-mile from his home. "Do you just say, 'Oh, sorry, I dropped my missile on your village; it's just a little mistake?'"

In this corner of rural Turkey, about 430 miles northwest of the border with Iraq, the apparently accidental dropping of three missiles late Sunday raised ire against a war few here support, and suspicion against an ally with whom the alliance has never been so tense.

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"There is no friendship between the US and Turkey - only money," says Abdullah Demir, the head of a neighboring village who stood guard with military police blocking off the crash site Monday until it could be inspected. "We've just had bombs fall on our land. How could it have been a good idea for the government to allow American planes to fly over our land?"

The misfirings over Turkey were like a throwing a bit of itching powder on an already uncomfortable point in Turkish-US relations regarding the war against Iraq. Diplomats from both countries have been scrambling to reach an understanding that would prevent Turkey from unilaterally sending its troops into northern Iraq.

Last week, the Turkish parliament voted to allow the US to use its airspace in order to reach Iraq. But implementation was held up for several days when Turkey demanded that permission for the US to fly be linked to Washington's acquiescence to Turkey's plans to send troops into Iraq. Media reports Monday suggested that US and Turkish officials were close to reaching an agreement that would allow between 4,000 and 6,000 Turkish soldiers to enter northern Iraq in tandem with the US, decreasing chances that Turks and Kurds would fight each other instead of the forces of Saddam Hussein. However, it was far from certain whether Iraqi Kurdish groups would accept such an agreement.

Monday in Ozveren, villagers stood on a cold, muddy hilltop staring out at a crater in the fields that normally grow pistachios, wheat, and barley. Now, a missile was planted in the fields below, and people were kept away for fear it could have carried hazardous materials. No one was injured in the incidents, but concern over further misfirings raised fear and mistrust all the same. "It was a mistake to give the US the right to fly over our country," says Saffet Yilmaz, a young father who says his children were hysterical from the missile crash nearby.

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