Hantepe survivors prepare to seek justice over intel weakness

Hantepe survivors 
   prepare to seek justice over intel weakness

The families of slain soldier Hakan Yutkun and wounded soldier Necati Yurt still expect an explanation from the General Staff about recent claims related to the attack on the Hantepe outpost.

August 18, 2010, Wednesday/ 16:56:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
Survivors of the terrorist attack on the Hantepe outpost in Çukurca are preparing to seek justice as suspicion surrounding the deaths of seven soldiers in the July attack has increased with the emergence of new evidence that Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) detected the terrorist group in the area 15 minutes before the attack.

Necati Yurt, who survived the attack, said that when he saw the allegations in the media he started to think that they were used as “bait.” “If those claims are true, they used us like bait,” he said. Yurt, who is from Adana, also said they were told about the Gediktepe attack -- a separate Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) attack in the Gediktepe region of Şemdinli, Hakkari, where 10 soldiers died -- one or two days before the assault, and that they knew the attack would take place between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. on July 19.

Following the soldiers’ clash with the terrorists, they should have received reinforcements from helicopters, but they were unable to provide their geographic coordinates because their supervisor, the only one who knew their coordinates, had been wounded.

Yurt believes the outlawed PKK attacked in retaliation for the bombardment of their Hakurk camps by Turkish jets two weeks prior to the Hantepe attack.

According to media reports, commanders at the Hantepe outpost were informed of the PKK threat in the region based on Heron intelligence. But the commanders responded: “There is no problem. Everything is under control.”

Both the police and military intelligence warned authorities of the possibility of an attack approximately 10 days before it occurred. The Security General Directorate notified the relevant authorities on July 8 of intelligence indicating that a group of 60 terrorists was going to carry out an attack along the border on a military outpost in Çukurca.

The families of slain soldier Hakan Yutkun and wounded soldier Necati Yurt still expect an explanation from the General Staff about recent claims related to the attack on the Hantepe outpost.

Even though the military units deployed in Hantepe were equipped with high-tech equipment, it was not used. The soldiers were unable to monitor movement because their thermal cameras were not working. Sensors that detect individuals approaching the outpost were not used and trip flares, which illuminate an area of close to 600 meters, did not go off. The unit that came under attack did not use flares.

Pvt. Yusuf Kılıç, who also survived the attack, said he was face-to-face with the terrorists. “Clashes started at around 1:30 a.m. and they lasted until the morning. I was wounded at around 5 a.m. We did not know that terrorists would attack,” he explained.

His father, Celal Kılıç, said they would follow up on the situation because they doubt that their son was protected. In addition, Kılıç’s brother, Bilal Kılıç, said they would talk with lawyers about filing a lawsuit.

Another source told Today’s Zaman that the event exhibited gross negligence in the military’s delivery of assistance, which took four hours to arrive from a post which is only 15 minutes from Hantepe. “I can’t understand why nobody did anything despite the images from the Herons,” he said, referring to Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül’s words that the images do not belong to Hantepe. However, the source, who did not want to be identified, said he was there when the images were taken by the Herons.

Gülfiye Yutkun, whose son Hakan Yutkun died in the attack, said they are disappointed by the silence of the authorities. The military has recently come under fire from all segments of society for its total silence on the issue. According to some claims, security units, including the General Staff headquarters, watched the attack live through surveillance provided by Herons, but did not send any additional firepower to the scene of the attack to help the wounded soldiers. The failure to respond quickly with helicopters and warplanes led to the deaths of more soldiers. By the time help arrived, the terrorists had already left the scene of the conflict and returned to their base in northern Iraq.

Suspicion surrounds Gen. Gürbüz Kaya, the Hakkari division commander. Observers believe the general should be questioned about his failure to take the necessary precautions to protect soldiers from PKK terrorists. The general came under fire last year over his remarks regarding the deaths of seven soldiers in Çukurca due to a land mine blast on May 27.

“It is not important at all. We are fighting at the cost of our lives. A few simple mistakes can be made,” he was quoted as saying in a voice recording. Kaya’s remarks sparked outrage, with many asking military courts to take action against the general for negligence in the conduct of his duty as a military officer.

He was back in the press in late June after nine soldiers were killed by PKK terrorists in Şemdinli. He said security cameras had captured images of individuals approaching the Şemdinli border unit, but that at the time they believed they were either shepherds or smugglers.

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