MİT provincial chief sacked over unshared intelligence in Reyhanlı attack
Scene in Reyhanlı after twin car bombs. (Photo: İHA, Adem Karagöz)
Turkish authorities reportedly sacked the intelligence chief of Reyhanlı district of the southern Turkish province of Hatay on the Syrian border after a Syria-linked deadly blast that killed 53 people in May.
The National Intelligence Organization's (MİT) provincial chief in Reyhanlı, identified only by his initials H.D., was recently fired after he was accused of failing to prevent the Reyhanlı bombings although he had received intelligence that assailants were planning to stage a bomb attack in Reyhanlı approximately one month before the attack.
Turkey was shocked by the May 11 twin car bombings in the town of Reyhanlı in the southern province of Hatay, which killed 52 people and wounded more than 100. Reyhanlı is a principal location for Syrian refugees who have fled the violence in their country. In the aftermath of the attack, claims were made that the police force and MİT did not fulfill their responsibility to prevent the bombings from taking place.
The former police chief of the Reyhanlı district, Murat Berk, was also removed from his post on May 17 following debates on whether police failed to avert the blasts despite intelligence. The authorities sacked Berk, days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had dismissed blaming the intelligence community and pointed to “miscommunication” between intelligence officials and police as the major reason for the failure to prevent the bombings.
The Prime Ministry Inspection Board launched the investigation upon an order from Prime Minister Erdoğan to find out if there was negligence by any state organization or official in failing to prevent attack. The board has determined that there was no wrongful intention but that there was negligence on the part of state officials.
The commission found that the suspects who allegedly carried out the bombings had been followed by MİT for the previous five or six months and that MİT knew the suspects were preparing to carry out a major attack in Turkey. It has also been revealed that in addition to the conversations of the suspects, video footage of the conversations was also in the hands of the relevant state units. The inspectors sought the answer to the question of why the attack could not be prevented despite having prior intelligence about it.
The inspectors determined why security units failed to prevent the attack: MİT did not transfer the information it had gathered with an “urgent” code to security units, communication between MİT and the police intelligence unit was lacking, a unit to analyze the intelligence gathered and make the necessary coordination was absent, intelligence information was not taken seriously, and they concentrated on Ankara as the possible venue for the attack and did not take sufficient measures to ensure border security.
MİT knew about the pending attack for 23 days but did not share the information with other law enforcement officials. The police were only informed by phone about the attack by MİT a day before it happened, but it was already too late. When the police raided the location where the perpetrators were said to be, none of the cars mentioned on the phone were found; thus, the attack proceeded.