Terrorists reportedly with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) attacked a military vehicle carrying soldiers for a guard change shortly after midnight in İskenderun. One soldier died at the scene of the incident, while six others were pronounced dead after being rushed to area hospitals. Hatay Governor Mehmet Lekesiz yesterday announced the identities of the fallen soldiers, expressing sorrow over the incident. Lekesiz said three injured soldiers had been transported to the Gülhane Military Academy of Medicine (GATA) in Ankara, while others were receiving treatment at İskenderun hospitals.
A group of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) members gathered in front of the Hatay Police Department following Lekesiz’s statements to condemn the incidents.
A ceremony was held yesterday at the naval base in İskenderun to commemorate the slain soldiers. Several military and civilian authorities attended the ceremony, which was closed to the press. The bodies have been sent to the soldiers’ hometowns.
The families of the slain soldiers were devastated. The house of Kerem Oğuz Erbay, one of the killed soldiers, was filled with neighbors and relatives who came to support Erbay’s mother, who was distraught at hearing the news. “We’ve sacrificed our son for the nation. This is not a war, it is terror. My son is now a victim of terror,” the mother said, sobbing. Erbay’s father and elder brother went to İskenderun to bring home the soldier’s body.
The house of another slain soldier, Serhat Aslan, was also filled with grief. Aslan’s family, originally from the southeastern province of Mardin, said they tried to reach Serhat when they heard about the incident before learning that he had been killed. “This is a game. It is not yet over, even after 30 years. We all fall victim to the game. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Kurd or a Turk,” Aslan’s father said.
After a ceremony yesterday at the naval base in İskenderun to commemorate the slain soldiers, their bodies were sent to the soldiers’ hometowns.
The two soldiers will reportedly be buried following a funeral prayer at an İzmir mosque.
Meanwhile, many organizations, politicians and state authorities condemned the terrorist attack in İskenderun yesterday. While noting that Turkey will continue to deal with terrorism and eliminate threat of terrorism totally, President Abdullah Gül offered his condolences to the families of the fallen soldiers, wishing a quick recovery for the injured soldiers in a statement. “Such vicious attacks will not ever reach their targets in the face of the will and the determination of our state and nation,” he said. Speaking at a press conference, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said the incident was disgraceful, dishonorable and ugly.
The PKK has stepped up attacks on Turkish army posts in the Southeast in recent weeks since the warmer weather allowed them to leave their mountain hideouts, but the group rarely attacks naval targets.
The rocket attack comes after a weekend of violence in the Southeast which saw six people killed in separate attacks as thousands of Turkish soldiers engage in large-scale operations in the provinces of Hakkari, Siirt, Tunceli, Diyarbakır and Bingöl.
Kurdish militants attacked the offices of a mining company in Hatay late on Saturday, killing a security guard and wounding two more.
In two other clashes this weekend, two soldiers died and three village guards working for the Turkish security forces were killed.