Retired general confesses to burning mosque to fire up public

Retired Gen. Sabri Yirmibeşoğlu

September 24, 2010, Friday/ 17:23:00
A retired general who has recently been accused of having conducted an assassination attempt on the life of Turkey's eighth president, Turgut Özal, has inadvertently confessed that he ordered the burning of a mosque as part of psychological warfare operations in 1974.

In remarks published in the Haber Türk daily yesterday as part of an interview with Gen. Sabri Yirmibeşoğlu, who led the Special War Department in 1971 and also worked to mobilize civilian resistance during Turkey's military intervention on Cyprus in 1974, said: “In Special War, certain acts of sabotage are staged and blamed on the enemy to increase public resistance. We did this on Cyprus; we even burnt down a mosque.” In response to the surprised correspondent's incredulous look the general said, “I am giving an example,” in an attempt to clear things up.

The retired general is also believed to have wide-ranging information concerning many alleged crimes and activities of behind-the-scene organizations such as JİTEM. He was also implicated in the Sept. 6-7, 1955 pogrom in İstanbul against minorities, which today is widely believed to have been part of a manipulative plan concocted by Ergenekon-like structures. Yirmibeşoğlu has admitted that the Sept. 6-7 events were organized by the Special War Department, documented by journalist Fatih Güllapoğlu in his book “Operation with No Tanks or Arms.” In the book, Yirmibeşoğlu is quoted as saying, “Sept. 6-7 is the work of Special War [department], and it is a spectacular organization.” In the interview with Haber Türk, Yirmibeşoğlu also attempted to clarify this point. He partially denied what was in the book saying, “In 1971 I was assigned as the senior [head] of the Special War Department. At the time, there was actually no department called the Special War Department, there was only the Mobility Investigation Board that was set up for Cyprus.”

The confession brings to mind the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plot, allegedly drafted by a clique in the military to undermine the government. Dozens of military officers were arrested, although most were later released during the investigation into the Sledgehammer document, which includes plans to bomb the Fatih and Beyazıt mosques and down a Turkish jet over the Aegean to fuel problems with Greece with the ultimate aim of discrediting the government.

When allegations regarding the Sledgehammer plan first arose after the document was leaked to the press earlier this year, then-Chief of General Staff Gen.İlker Başbuğ dismissed the accusations as nonsense. Başbuğ said a military whose troops are known for shouting “Allah Allah” as they attack the enemy could not possibly think of burning the house of God. However, Yirmibeşoğlu’s revelation shows that this has actually been done before.

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