Turkey's ruling party admitted Thursday that an air strike that killed 35 people on the Iraq border may have been a blunder, targeting local villagers instead of Kurdish separatist guerrillas.

“According to initial reports, these people were smugglers and not terrorists,” Huseyin Celik, vice-president of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), said.

“If it turns out to have been a mistake, a blunder, rest assured that this will not be covered up,” he told reporters, adding that it could have been an “operational accident” by the Turkish military.

“In the name of my party I would like to express our shock and sadness,” he said, while calling on the public to await the results of an investigation.

The high command said warplanes had struck at Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants after an intelligence drone spotted a group of people moving toward its sensitive southeastern border under cover of darkness late Wednesday.

Turkey's main pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BPD) said the planes bombed a group of villagers from the Kurdish area of the southeast who were smuggling sugar and gas across the border. - Sapa-AFP