Ten Turkish soldiers were killed and 70 others were injured when terrorists from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) attacked a military convoy with rocket launchers in the eastern province of Bingöl, sources said on Tuesday.
The convoy was traveling between the provinces of Bingöl and Muş when it was hit by the rocket launchers near the village of Kardeşler. The attack was the second such assault there in three days. Bingöl Governor Hakan Güvençer said the convoy -- made up of three buses, one midibus, one minibus and 10 armored vehicles -- was carrying 200 unarmed soldiers to their military units.
According to initial reports, the soldiers were just returning from a brief holiday and were headed to their new military units. The military sent reinforcements to Bingöl and operations were ongoing on Tuesday. Two F-16 fighter jets took off from an air base in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır after the attack. Their destination was unclear. Sources said the terrorists fled the scene in a white vehicle, which was believed to be filled with explosives.
The deaths of the10 Turkish soldiers could have been avoided if it not for a series of security flaws, many experts are now suggesting, as controversy grows around the issue of negligence in the military. The Taraf daily on Thursday published interviews with injured soldiers conducted at the hospitals where they were taken. One unnamed soldier commented: “We saw the PKK militants through the thermal cameras, but we didn’t have enough ammunition. The armored vehicles just fled the scene.”
Local and military sources point to a number of problems with Turkey’s system of transferring soldiers to their units. Before starting at new units, soldiers are taken to Acceptance and Collection Centers (KTM), a system that has been in place for many years. In normal circumstances, every gendarmerie command along the route of a convoy headed to a KTM is alerted before its departure. However, sources say this step was skipped in the case of the Bingöl convoy, although a statement from the Bingöl Governor’s Office has denied such claims.
Sept. 15, Saturday
A vice admiral and a lieutenant were detained as part of an ongoing probe into a military espionage gang. After being summoned by a prosecutor in İstanbul, Vice Adm. Veysel Kösele, a top figure in the navy, and a lieutenant were sent to prison on court order over the weekend. Eighty-five individuals, including 51 active duty military officers, have been arrested so far in operations carried out as part of the probe, which is headed by the İzmir Prosecutor’s Office. Kösele is the most senior suspect so far that has been arrested in the espionage probe.
Sept. 16, Sunday
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that Turkey recognizes anti-semitism as a crime, while not a single Western country recognizes Islamophobia as such. Speaking to journalists in Sarajevo after a series of visits to Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Erdoğan commented on the 14-minute trailer for “Innocence of Muslims,” an obscure film that mocks the Prophet Muhammad, which sparked violent riots across various Muslim nations. Erdoğan said he will talk about the movie that has angered Muslims on Sept. 25 at the UN General Assembly. He noted that the reaction against the movie in Turkey has been restrained. “In the last past 10 years, extremes [in Turkey] have been curbed. In a way, we acted like a lightning rod.”
Sept. 17, Monday
Turkey’s main Kurdish party said that Turkey must agree a mutual cease-fire with terrorists linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to have any hope of ending their conflict, rather than making one-sided demands that they disarm.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu paid a visit to the mausoleum of a former prime minister who was executed after the May 27, 1960 coup on the occasion of the anniversary of his execution, in an apparent step to counter the much-criticized pro-coup stance the party once held. “We should admit that all the political executions carried out in the past were murders,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding that he came there to wipe clean the negative image of the CHP. “We learned our lessons from history,” the CHP leader stated, adding those coup victims who were executed had done a great service to this country.
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the opening of former President Turgut Özal’s grave as part of an investigation launched earlier this year into the exact cause of death of the former president. The prosecutor’s office decided that Özal’s body should be exhumed for a detailed analysis. Özal is recorded as having died of a heart attack in 1993.
Graduates of imam-hatip schools, which teach religious education as well as other subjects, will be accepted into military academies for the first time under a regulation that is being prepared by the Ministry of Defense and which states that all students, regardless of where they graduated from, have the right to attend military academies.
A parliamentary reception held annually on Oct. 1, which marks the start of the legislative year, has been cancelled, the Parliament Speaker’s Office announced.
Sept. 18, Tuesday
Sebahat Tuncel, a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), was sentenced to eight years, nine months in prison by an İstanbul court on charges of membership in the PKK.
The Finance Ministry’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) sent a report to an Ankara court in which it detailed the bank account activities of two leading generals of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup, according to a report that appeared in the Turkish media. MASAK stated in its 55-page report that its officials were able to examine the activities in the bank accounts of retired Gens. Kenan Evren and Tahsin Şahinkaya only since 2001. The board is currently examining their financial activities before 2001 and plans to send the details of bank activities that belong to the period between 1980 and 2001 in an additional report to the court in the weeks ahead.
Haluk Koç, the deputy chairman of the CHP, made public the text of the protocol allegedly signed by members of the PKK and representatives of the Turkish government at negotiations in Oslo in 2010.
England, in the capacity of an arbitrator country, signed the text in the name of the two parties, Koç said. According to the text the two sides agreed upon, military operations and terrorist activities would be stopped by both sides; committees would be set up to find a solution to the Kurdish problem; two persons would visit Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the terrorist organization, on behalf of the PKK; politicians arrested in the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) investigation -- the KCK being an umbrella organization that includes the PKK -- following Nevruz of 2011 would be released; and negotiations would be restarted after the general elections of June 12.
Sept. 19, Wednesday
Authorities in charge of investigating the circumstances of the June 22 crash of a military plane in the Mediterranean said that the jet was attacked by Syrian forces while it was flying in international airspace. Releasing the findings of an investigation, the General Staff’s Military Prosecutor’s Office blamed the plane’s crash on a missile attack by the Syrian forces, although it revealed that the aircraft did not crash as a result of being directly hit by a missile. According to the findings, the plane crashed into the water after a missile fired by Syrian forces exploded at the left side of the back of the plane, creating a “blast effect.”
Schools were closed in the Turkish town of Akçakale, which borders Syria, after three Turkish nationals were injured in the town as clashes broke out between Syrian opposition fighters and regime forces along the border.
The Turkish General Staff said that none of the suspects under arrest as part of an investigation into what is known among the public as a “military espionage case” are accused of espionage, responding to a report prepared by the CHP alleging that the military contains 400 spies. A total of 56 people, including active duty military officers, have been arrested in a series of operations launched against a gang accused of hiring foreign women as prostitutes for military officers, through whom they obtained military information, and then selling that information to third parties. There are 280 suspects implicated in the case launched by the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in 2010. The military released a statement saying that the arrestees stand accused of membership in a criminal organization and possessing secret information and documents.
Delegates of the Voice of the People Party (HAS) agreed to shut the party down, following its leader’s transfer to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party).
A son of former President Özal objected to the opening of his father’s grave, as ordered by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office as part of an investigation launched earlier this year into the exact cause of death of the former president.
Sept. 20, Thursday
Suspects standing trial in the Sledgehammer coup case delivered their last defense statements as the court was preparing to give its final verdict in the case. The 107th hearing of the trial was held at the İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court at the Silivri Prison complex. One of the key suspects in the case, retired Gen. Çetin Doğan asked the court to give up making the “clichéd decisions” it has made so far and make its final rulings for each of the suspects based on concrete evidence.
MASAK will investigate whether the military and civilian actors of the Feb. 28, 1997 military coup obtained undeserved financial gains following the coup, the Star daily reported.
The European Commission is about to publish one of its most critical progress reports on Turkey in recent years, Today’s Zaman learned. The draft report harshly criticizes Turkey’s shortcomings, despite its efforts to reform, citing as basic reasons the almost virtual halt of the reform process and deficiencies with fundamental freedoms, in particular freedom of expression and of the press.
The military dismissed claims that it failed to object to a recent parliamentary report recommending military academies accept graduates of imam-hatip schools, pointing out that there is no avenue for it to make such an objection. A statement released by the General Staff said there is no parliamentary regulation that grants the military the right to object to reports prepared by the Petition Committee.
--- A group of terrorists from the PKK set an elementary school on fire in a village in southeastern Turkey, destroying the school building. The terrorists set fire to Atatürk Elementary School in the village of Altınsu in Hakkari’s Şemdinli district.
--- The chairman of the main opposition CHP, whose deputy chairman earlier this week disclosed a text allegedly agreed by the terrorist PKK and government representatives after a series of negotiations in Oslo in 2010, says the CHP is not against talking to the PKK. In televised remarks broadcast, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, responding to questions about CHP Deputy Chairman Haluk Koç’s press conference regarding the Oslo talks, said: “We are not saying why did you have the talks? We are saying what did you talk about?”
Sept. 21, Friday
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has canceled a planned trip to the United States where he was due to attend a UN General Assembly meeting that, among other issues, will discuss the crisis in neighboring Syria. A statement from Erdoğan’s AK Party said the prime minister canceled his trip because of an upcoming party congress, slated for Sept. 30, and his heavy work schedule.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during an interview with a US paper that he will decide to run for president based on demand from the nation and his party. Erdoğan’s statement was in response to a question asking during an interview with The Washington Post: “There are rumors that you want to become president after your term as prime minister is over and that you might want to change the constitution to enhance the powers of the presidency. Do you have an interest in becoming president?”
The terrorist PKK claimed responsibility for an armed attack on Wednesday that killed Ovacık Chief Public Prosecutor Murat Uzun, websites affiliated with the PKK have reported. The 35-year-old prosecutor was shot in the head in Ovacık while returning to his apartment. Uzun was rushed to Ovacık State Hospital for urgent treatment and then taken to Fırat University Hospital, where he died. Intelligence and security units also discovered details pertaining to the attack on the prosecutor thanks to tapped radio transceiver conversations between terrorists in camps based in northern Iraq.