Military negligence implied in Bingöl attack as slain soldiers laid to rest

On Wednesday, Turkey sought satisfactory answers to a number of questions that had »»

On Wednesday, Turkey sought satisfactory answers to a number of questions that had arisen in the aftermath of a terrorist attack that killed 10 soldiers in the eastern province of Bingöl.

A group of 200 soldiers, who were back from a brief vacation in their hometowns, were on their way to their new military units on Tuesday when their convoy was targeted by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Terrorists attacked the convoy with rocket launchers and rifles, killing 10 soldiers and wounding 60 others.

What was as tragic as the killing of the soldiers was the negligence of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to take the necessary precautions when transferring the soldiers to their military units. Bingöl Governor Hakan Güvençer said the soldiers were traveling in civilian buses and accompanied by armored military vehicles and they were unarmed.

Many people voiced harsh criticism in the wake of the deadly incident, asking the military to explain why the soldiers were traveling with almost no security measures taken in a region that has recently been the scene of fatal attacks by the terrorist PKK. On Sunday, PKK terrorists detonated a roadside bomb also in Bingöl, killing eight police officers and wounding seven others. The police officers were traveling in an unarmored vehicle, too.

Journalist Şamil Tayyar, who is also a deputy from the governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party), harshly criticized the TSK for sending the soldiers to their military units in civilian buses. “How on earth did they [military authorities] allow those sons [soldiers] to hit the road without any security measures? It is apparent that the PKK had obtained intelligence that the military convoy would travel in the area [of the attack],” he said, implying that some from inside the military leaked information to the terrorist group about the destination of the convoy carrying the soldiers.

“Armored vehicles accompanying buses in which the soldiers were traveling did not fire at the terrorists. For me, there is some betrayal in the incident,” Tayyar stated, and likened the deadly attack to the killing of 33 unarmed off-duty soldiers in Bingöl in 1993.

On May 24, 1993, a group of about 150 PKK terrorists blocked the Elazığ-Bingöl highway, stopping several buses that were transferring unarmed Turkish soldiers in civilian clothing. They dragged the soldiers from their vehicles before executing them. The attack broke a PKK ceasefire that had been declared in response to efforts by then-President Turgut Özal to establish a dialogue with the PKK to solve the long-standing Kurdish problem. The military was later criticized for the fact that the soldiers had been unarmed and given no protection.

Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin expressed his condolences to the families of the slain soldiers during an event he attended in Ankara on Wednesday. He said military operations against the terrorist PKK would continue until all armed members of the terrorist group are killed.

A statement released by the Bingöl Governor's Office on Wednesday said that the convoy was accompanied by two armored vehicles that had jammers and one ambulance. Twenty-seven armed noncommissioned officers were also onboard to protect the soldiers.

According to retired prosecutor Gültekin Avcı, the attack has once again brought under the spotlight the military's flaws in the fight against PKK terrorism. For him, it is implausible to make a very large group of soldiers travel in civilian buses. “What if terrorists were able to render the armored vehicles accompanying the buses ineffective? It is so hard to imagine, but all of the 200 soldiers would either be killed or abducted by the terrorists. Why did the military not send helicopters or jets to accompany the convoy? Or why didn't the military directly send the soldiers to their military units by plane?” he asked.

Avcı also said the General Staff should launch an investigation into the attack and punish whoever is responsible for the negligence that led to the deaths of 10 soldiers. “If you are a terror-hit country, then you should be more careful in the fight against terrorists,” he added.

Ahmet Altan, the editor-in-chief of the Taraf daily, also asked why the military did not send the soldiers to their units via helicopters. “Why were the soldiers made to board civilian buses with no arms? How can they [the military] explain it at a time when eight police officers were killed in Bingöl only three days ago? Why were soldiers not transferred with helicopters? And how did the PKK know that a military convoy would pass through Bingöl on that day? How did they obtain the intelligence?” he asked in his column on Wednesday.

In the meantime, the slain soldiers were sent to Malatya early on Wednesday for an autopsy. They were later sent to Ankara to be sent to their hometowns for burial. Some of the soldiers were laid to rest on Tuesday, and some others are to be buried today.

Pvt. Eren Kupal was buried in Adıyaman following funeral prayers attended by a huge crowd. The crowd carried Turkish flags and chanted slogans denouncing PKK terrorism after the prayers. Kupal's relatives had a nervous breakdown during the prayers.

Also on Wednesday, the terrorist PKK opened fire on a civilian vehicle in the Hani district of southeastern Diyarbakır province, killing one man and wounding two others. A statement released by the Diyarbakır Governor's Office said one of the injured was in critical condition. An operation was launched in the area to capture the fleeing terrorists.

Seven detained for aiding terrorist PKK

Şırnak police launched an operation early on Wednesday in various locations in the Cizre district. Seven people were taken into custody for suspected ties to the terrorist PKK. According to initial reports, the men are accused of aiding and abetting the terrorist group.

Three of the suspects are reportedly minors. The suspects were taken to the anti-terror department of the Cizre Police Department for interrogation. It was not immediately clear whether they were to be arrested or released.