Report finding: Van girl killed during army target practice

December 07, 2010, Tuesday/ 16:24:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

A ballistics report on the death of a girl killed in July by a stray bullet in the eastern province of Van states that the bullet was fired from a nearby military barracks where soldiers had been conducting target practice.

According the report, a stray bullet from a nearby firing range found its way into a recreational area in the village of Kurubaş, striking 16-year-old Canan Saldık, who was on a picnic with her family and relatives. Saldık was critically injured from a gunshot wound to the head and was rushed to Van İpekyolu State Hospital and then transferred to Yüzüncü Yıl University Hospital; however, doctors were unable to save her.

The Van Prosecutor's Office and the Military Prosecutor's Office launched investigations into the incident after the family insisted that the stray bullet that killed Canan came from the Hacıbekir barracks, which are close to the picnic area. A case was filed against five military officers, including a colonel, at the Van Military Court.

Saldık's family lawyers İsmail Say and Mehmet Ali Şahin said the ballistics report, which confirms that the bullet that killed Saldık was fired from the gun of a soldier at the Hacıbekir barracks, has been submitted to the court. Say stated that the prosecution is demanding up to six years' imprisonment for the five officers who will be tried on charges of “official misconduct” and “involuntary manslaughter.” He also said two suspects had been arrested during investigations but later released pending trial. Arguing that there were a series of negligent acts in the case, Say added that the case being heard by the Van Military Court is due to conclude shortly.

Saldık's death is not the first case in which a minor has been killed by a stray bullet or by military ordnance. In another incident, a 14-year-old girl, Ceylan Önkol, was killed in an explosion on Sept. 28, 2009 while tending sheep in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. Following Önkol's death, allegations surfaced that the tragedy was caused by a military mortar shell. The General Staff, however, denied the claim. A report released in October ruled the girl was responsible for her own death, finding that she had been playing with an unexploded grenade, previously launched by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), when it accidentally detonated.

According to data compiled by the Human Rights Association (İHD), unexploded ordnance killed 56 civilians in the Southeast in 2008 and 2009 and left 132 others disabled.

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