Commanders guilty of negligence in soldier deaths remain in place

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None of the commanders accused of negligence in four attacks by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on military outposts in Hakkari’s Dağlıca, Aktütün, Gediktepe and Hantepe provinces in the past three years have been investigated by military prosecutors.

An attack on the Dağlıca outpost left 13 soldiers dead in 2007. Eight soldiers taken hostage by terrorists were released two weeks later. One soldier was killed in May of this year when he stepped on a land mine in the same area.

An attack on the Dağlıca outpost left 13 soldiers dead in 2007. Eight soldiers taken hostage by terrorists were released two weeks later. One soldier was killed in May of this year when he stepped on a land mine in the same area.

Some have been promoted, while others have simply been appointed to other provinces, as if nothing happened. In all of these attacks, evidence was found to indicate that the commanders had failed to act against the terrorists, despite intelligence reports and visual images provided by Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). In the Hantepe attack, where seven soldiers died on May 27, 2009, the families of the victims were able to achieve some legal results with one of the generals being put behind bars last week. However, others who are responsible still walk freely.

In the past three years 76 soldiers have died and 62 have been injured in 30 terrorist attacks in Hakkari, a province near the Iraqi border. Security flaws and risks remain high in this region, which has also provided the terrorist organization with many recruits and serious funding.

Acting on complaints from the families of 48 soldiers killed in the attacks, the Van Specially Authorized Prosecutor’s Office recently launched an investigation into the attacks in Dağlıca, Aktütün, Gediktepe and Hantepe that occurred between 2007 and 2009. The suspects, if indicted, will face charges of membership in a terrorist organization, aiding and abetting the organization, membership in an organization established to perpetrate crimes, murder with malicious intent, failure to notify authorities of a crime and abuse of power. However, the military has not carried out any such investigation.

The victims’ families very recently petitioned the İstanbul Prosecutor’s Office demanding that all those responsible for failing to prevent the deaths of the 48 soldiers be found and tried. The İstanbul Prosecutor’s Office ruled the petition outside its jurisdiction and referred it to the Van Specially Authorized Prosecutor’s Office.

In related developments, voice recordings anonymously posted online on Saturday have provided further evidence indicating that the Oct. 21, 2007 terrorist attack on the military outpost of Dağlıca in Hakkari that left 13 soldiers dead could have been prevented.

The recordings, which allegedly take place between two military officers discussing claims that some soldiers shot at each other during the Dağlıca attack, were posted on The two officers say that investigators wanted to investigate the weapons used in the raid after the incident, which was followed by a suspicious fire in the arms depot.

During the incident 13 soldiers died and eight others were taken hostage by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), to be released two weeks later. The new voice recording shows that the General Staff provided incorrect information after the attack. Then Gendarmerie Force General Commander Atila Işık submitted a detailed intelligence report to the Chief of General Staff Yaşar Büyükanıt regarding the PKK’s plan to attack Dağlıca, which even included the number of militants who planned to attack the outpost.

At the time, there were claims that the military had failed to take the necessary measures to fend off the attack despite intelligence reports from Oct. 14, 2007 clearly showing the terrorist group’s plans to stage it.

The recording allegedly features the voice of Col. Vural E., who was a lieutenant colonel at the time serving at the Manisa Provincial Gendarmerie Command, along with Gendarmerie Col. İsmail C., who served at the Kahramanmaraş Provincial Gendarmerie Command at the time of the incident.

In the conversation, the two commanders state that they prepared the report. They also say that Hakkari Provincial Gendarmerie Commander Atilla Ataal, when he saw the report, asked them to reword the part stating that 250 PKK members were on their way, changing it to “a crowded group.”

Commander worried about promotion

The voice recording reveals another shocking fact. According to the conversation between the two officers, Garrison Commander Col. Metin Yarlıkaya’s immediate reaction to the Dağlıca raid was concern that he would not be promoted to battalion commander. However, he was promoted to Çanakkale Provincial Gendarmerie Battalion Commander in the 2008 Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meeting and he is currently a battalion commander in Van. The two officers in the voice recordings and other officers who appear to be guilty of negligence in the same attack have also been promoted.

Shortly after the attack, evidence gathered in the course of an investigation into Ergenekon, a crime network accused of plotting to overthrow the government, suggested that the commander of the Dağlıca battalion actually e-mailed crucial intelligence about his battalion’s post and the region to a woman who, standing accused of being a member of the Ergenekon terrorist organization, is currently in custody. According to the evidence, Dağlıca Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Onur Dirik e-mailed photos and detailed information about the security of the region to Ergenekon suspect Ayşe Asuman Özdemir nearly a year before the attack.

A large number of scandals followed the violent attack in Dağlıca, including claims that the General Staff had prior knowledge of the ambush but failed to take necessary precautions. In addition to the deaths of 13 soldiers, eight soldiers were kidnapped and taken to Iraq. The soldiers were arrested upon their return and charged with not resisting the PKK and illegally leaving the country. The General Staff confirmed newspaper claims that the army had prior knowledge of the attack and that the unit in question had been duly warned. The Taraf daily published a detailed gendarmerie intelligence report on the attack and wrote that the report was sent to every important command unit. The report detailed the PKK attack’s coordinates

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