Commanders to remain in Southeast until anti-PKK offensive completed

Turkey’s chief of General Staff and force commanders who rushed to the country’s southeast after the killing of 24 soldiers last Wednesday in a series of attacks by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to oversee the ensuing anti-PKK offensive will not return to Ankara until the offensive is successfully completed.

Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel (front) and the force commanders seen during a military ceremony. (Photo: AA)
Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel (front) and the force commanders seen during a military ceremony. (Photo: AA)

Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and the military’s force commanders are still in Hakkari and Özel is personally commanding the air-backed ground offensive that was launched against the PKK along the border and in northern Iraq. General Staff sources say the day the commanders will return has not yet been set.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said on Saturday that the top commanders “pledged not to return their homes before accomplishing the anti-PKK operation.”

The PKK killed 24 soldiers and injured 18 others in simultaneous attacks on Wednesday. The attack was the deadliest PKK attack in 18 years and the fourth deadliest since the PKK started its campaign of separatist violence nearly three decades ago.

The Turkish military immediately took action in retaliation and launched a major offensive against the PKK. The military operation against the terrorists involves thousands of troops and focuses on both sides of the mountainous Turkey-Iraq border. The General Staff announced that a total of 49 terrorists have been killed during the course of the operation so far, while some news reports claim that over 100 PKK members have been killed.

 

 

 

23 October 2011, Sunday / TODAYSZAMAN.COM,

Tears, grief as Turkey bids farewell to slain sons

Funeral ceremonies were held on Thursday and Friday in the hometowns of the soldiers who were martyred in simultaneous Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) attacks in Hakkari on Wednesday.

A large group of people gathered in front of the house of Pvt. Mesut Kazanç (a Hakkari martyr) on Friday.
A large group of people gathered in front of the house of Pvt. Mesut Kazanç (a Hakkari martyr) on Friday.

There was grief, anger and tears at all the funeral ceremonies held across various provinces across Turkey. Third Lt. Bilal Özcan and Pvt. Eyüp Çolakoğlu, two of the victims of Wednesday’s attacks, were laid to rest at the Edirnekapı Martyrs’ Cemetery in İstanbul following funeral prayers at the Ataköy mosque.

A large crowd of people attended the martyrs’ funeral.

Sgt. Koray Özel was laid to rest in his hometown of Adana after funeral prayers held in the Adana Sabacı Central Mosque. Özel’s mother Elif tried to keep her calm at the funeral saying, “I will not cry, I thought I had only one son but I have seen that I have thousands of other sons,” she said.

Adana deputy Police Chief Mustafa Tunga warned a group of students who were chanting political slogans at the funeral to be on alert for provocations.

Master Sgt. İbrahim Geçer, another victim of Wednesday’s attack, was laid to rest in the Yazla district of Konya. Special Sgt. Halil Özdoğru was buried in his hometown of Sinop following funeral prayers. Pvt. Mesut Kazanç was laid to rest in his hometown of Erzurum on Friday.

Pvt. Ramazan Akın’s funeral was held in eastern province of Ağrı on Thursday. Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım was among the participants of Akın’s funeral. Pvt. Ahmet Tuncel was laid to rest in his hometown of Bitlis following funeral ceremonies on Thursday.

Wednesday’s attack was the deadliest PKK attack in 18 years and the fourth deadliest since the PKK started its campaign of separatist violence nearly three decades ago. The attacks came only a day after five policemen and four civilians, including a 2-year-old and a 10-year-old, were killed by a roadside bomb planted by the PKK in nearby Bitlis province.

Wednesday’s attacks also came only days after Turkish President Abdullah Gül visited troops in the region to boost morale in an area that has seen increased violence in recent months. On Thursday Parliament will hold an emergency session to discuss new measures against the PKK, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ announced after Wednesday’s terrorism summit.

PKK terrorist activities have been a central concern for Turkish governments since the organization took up arms in 1984 and waged a bloody war for autonomy, which has cost more than 40,000 lives in almost three decades. Despite fitful cease-fires, the terrorist organization organizes attacks from its bases in northern Iraq and as of July stepped up its attacks, which have claimed the lives of dozens of security personnel as well many civilians.

 

 

21 October 2011, Friday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL

Military denies allegations of soldier abuse, alleges slander

The General Staff on Tuesday issued an angry statement denying the truth of allegations that Pvt. Uğur Kantar, who died allegedly as a result of torture while being held in a military disciplinary facility, was subject to any physical abuse, accusing those making the allegations of attempting to turn the people against the armed forces.

Uğur Kantar,
Uğur Kantar,

The General Staff said Kantar, who according to the allegations was tortured for days in a prison chamber referred to as “the disco” by the military unit in which he was serving in northern Cyprus, had been sentenced to solitary confinement for “disrupting order” after he got into a fight with a fellow soldier. According to the statement, Kantar was sent to the brigade’s disciplinary correction facility on July 18 for one week. The statement claimed that Kantar collapsed while his release documents were being processed, on July 25, and that Kantar was having seizures “that looked like epileptic seizures,” and also had a high fever. He was later transferred to a northern Cyprus hospital. The statement also said that due to the suspicious nature of Kantar’s medical condition, all six prison guards serving in the prison at the time were removed from their posts. Two guards were detained by a military prosecutor conducting an investigation into the case. The two men were placed under arrest. Kantar died on Oct. 12, 79 days after the incident, at İstanbul’s Gülhane Military Academy of Medicine (GATA) hospital.

The statement also said that Kantar’s family had apologized to the military for threatening phone calls some family members made to commanders of Kantar’s former unit. It denied allegations that the young man’s mother was not allowed into the GATA hospital because she was wearing a headscarf.

An investigation into the young man’s death is still ongoing. The family claims abuse and torture caused Kantar’s death. Earlier this week, a letter written months ago to Parliament’s Human Rights Investigation Committee by another private who served in the same unit as Kantar was published in Turkish newspapers. The letter includes serious allegations of torture, abuse and humiliation in “the disco” at the hands of the prison’s commanders.

 

 

 

18 October 2011, Tuesday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL

Dirik: I am a scapegoat for someone else’s negligence

A lieutenant colonel who was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of causing the death of a senior lieutenant and has been accused by the public of failing to prevent the deaths of 12 soldiers in a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist attack on a military outpost in Dağlıca, Hakkari province, says there is much more to the attack and the ensuing investigation than the public knows, asserting that he was chosen as a scapegoat to throw suspicion off of those truly responsible.

In addition to the 12 deaths, eight soldiers were kidnapped by terrorists in the course of the attack on Oct. 21, 2007. These eight soldiers, who were returned by the PKK after two weeks, also had to stand trial on charges of disobeying orders. The attack and a subsequent investigation were ridden with controversy from the start. Then-Lt. Col. Onur Dirik, who was in command of the battalion that was attacked, has not yet faced charges over his suspected negligence. Instead, he was sentenced to three years in prison by a military court in June 2010, which was affirmed by a military appeals court on Oct. 4, for causing the death of a senior lieutenant who gave him orders to clear out mines that had been planted by the PKK. He was also discharged from the military.

Dirik spoke with Today’s Zaman from his jail cell last week, detailing in-depth information about the attack. He indicated that what the public knows about the attack is only the tip of the iceberg and added that he is ready to talk with public prosecutors about what he knows.

Dirik said the PKK appeared to be “seriously” well-informed about the Dağlıca battalion and expressed concern about the potential fait of the investigation report prepared in the aftermath of the attack. According to Dirik, his prison sentence is the result of an attempt to lay blame for the results of the attack on him alone.

The former lieutenant colonel notes that odd things occurred before and after the attack. He said that after his battalion was moved from Hakkari’s Çukurca district to Dağlıca, they were given orders to work at a construction site on the grounds that the contractor who had been awarded the tender lacked sufficient manpower and resources. Dirik said, “I think there are some grave questions that need to be answered at this point, as my battalion had the specific assignment to establish dominant control over the area.” He indicated that the construction work over time curtailed the combat capacities and skills of the battalion, noting it even appeared as an attempt to render the battalion weak and useless in the face of a terrorist attack. He recalls a local villager saying, “They are not going to send Cobras [military helicopters] to a place where they don’t even send construction equipment. I guess the terrorists can see that too, if I can.” Dirik, however, insists that they took all possible measures against a terrorist presence and terrorist activity in the region despite all of the adversity they had to endure.

Another point he finds suspicious about the attack was that the battalion was preparing for an operation in the area against terrorists in the region. In fact, the decision to stage a military operation in the area had been made only four hours before the attack. He noted they knew about 28 days before the attack that terrorist groups in the region had been identified as an unusual mobile. He said the planned operation was to be launched against two hills where the terrorists were known to be hiding, but superior commanders ordered it canceled. The battalion also received orders to join a highway security operation in the opposite direction of the original target, which would leave few people at the base.

Dirik feels the goal of the Dağlıca attack was to place the government in a difficult position. He also clarified that he was not in attendance at a wedding during the attack as was claimed in the media, saying that the pictures printed in some newspapers showing him at a festive occasion were from a New Year’s event that had been organized to boost troops’ morale.

 

 

 

16 October 2011, Sunday / MUSTAFA GÜRLEK, İSTANBUL

‘Tortured’ private laid to rest

The body of a soldier allegedly tortured to death in a disciplinary ward for failing to show up on time for the daily section rally while performing his military service in Turkish Cyprus was laid to rest yesterday in Istanbul.

Private Kantar was allegedly tortured to death for failing to show up on time for the daily rally. DHA photo
Private Kantar was allegedly tortured to death for failing to show up on time for the daily rally. DHA photo

“They killed my son through torture but have yet to issue a single apology,” said Aydın Kantar, the father of Uğur Kantar, who died Oct. 12 in Ankara. “I entrusted my child to the state, and it gave me back his tortured corpse.”

The military prosecution recorded the testimonies of 37 people; two privates who allegedly tortured him were sent to military prison on charges of “malicious wounding.”

Kantar was serving in the 28th division in Turkish Cyprus and was set to be discharged on Aug. 1. Only two weeks prior to the end of his term of service, however, Kantar was sent to the military disciplinary ward where he was allegedly subjected to torture, handcuffed to a chair and left under the sun without any water.

He was also allegedly beaten by privates Fırat Keser and Ayhan Aslan, who were guarding Kantar.

“I am of the opinion that the incident will not be limited to the arrest of two privates. Were there no officers who witnessed [the event] while Uğur Kantar was being subjected to torture for three days?” said Ayhan Sefer Üstün, the head of Parliament’s Human Rights Inspection Committee.

Friday, October 14, 2011
Enis Tayman
Radikal / ISTANBUL

Turkish military exercises continue along Syrian border

The Turkish military’s nine days of exercises on its southern border with Syria continued yesterday amid an announcement that the death toll from the Arab republic’s seven-month-old uprising is nearing 3,000.

This file photo shows the Efes 2009 Turkish military exercise in İzmir.
This file photo shows the Efes 2009 Turkish military exercise in İzmir.

The exercise started Oct. 5, the same day Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lamented the failure of a U.N. resolution to impose sanctions on Syria, saying the veto would not deter Turkey from launching its own sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. More than 2,900 people have been killed in Syria since the start of a crackdown on anti-regime protests, the U.N. said yesterday, a day before its human rights body was to discuss the situation. Today, the U.N. Human Rights Council will discuss the situation in Syria, after Russia and China on Tuesday vetoed a European-backed draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would have threatened possible action against al-Assad. Syrian troops stormed villages close to the border with Turkey yesterday, hunting armed military defectors who fought back in clashes that left at least four soldiers and three others dead.

Compiled from AP and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.

Thursday, October 6, 2011
GENEVA/BEIRUT

Stingers for Egypt and Turkey, 2011

 

In fall 2011, Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ received a $26 million firm-fixed-price contract from Egypt and Turkey for 174 Stinger FIM-92H Block 1 missiles, 10 Electronic Component Assemblies, and spare parts. Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by the US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-09-C-0508).

A similar contract was issued in June 2009. Stinger is usually carried by soldiers as a shoulder-fired (MANPADS) missile, and that very portability has led to increased concern about keeping MANPADS weapons out of the hands of terrorists. Egypt recently revived the production linefor HMMWV-mounted “Avenger” low-altitude air defense systems. They combine the Stinger missile with a .50 caliber machine gun, and advanced detection and tracking sensors. Turkey is also one of the missile’s many customers, and Roketsan handleslicense production of rocket motors within the European Common Stinger Production Consortium.

 

 

This article is from 

www.defenseindustrydaily.com

Oct 06, 2011

 

‘No immunity clause for US troops in Iraq’

Iraqi leaders agreed on the need to train Iraqi forces regarding whether to extend the stay of U.S. troops in the country, however stated there was “no need” for U.S. forces that stay beyond year-end to receive immunity from prosecution, a key condition set by Washington. Only supporters of radical anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr rejected the accord.

A US soldier raises the American flag at a checkpoint in Baghdad in this file photo. Iraqi leaders agreed there is no need to give immunity for US trainers in Iraq. REUTERS photo
A US soldier raises the American flag at a checkpoint in Baghdad in this file photo. Iraqi leaders agreed there is no need to give immunity for US trainers in Iraq. REUTERS photo

The remarks raise questions over whether an oft-discussed American military training mission will be agreed for beyond the end-2011 withdrawal deadline set by a bilateral security pact, and how it will be structured if any deal is put in place, Agence France-Presse reported.

After a two-hour meeting hosted by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, the leaders of the country’s main political blocs said that they “agreed on the need to train Iraqi forces” and quickly purchase military equipment, according to a statement issued by government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh.

But, “the leaders agreed there is no need to give immunity for trainers.” It added: “Training should be held on Iraqi bases, and it should be organized to ensure that Iraqi forces will be professional.” “These forces should … be able to deter any threat against Iraq’s internal and external security and maintain the integrity of its territory, water and skies, and its constitutional democracy.”

U.S. and Iraqi officials assess that while domestic security forces are largely capable of maintaining internal security, they cannot yet defend the country’s borders, its maritime waters, or its airspace. The decision by Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs allows Iraqi Prime Nuri al-Maliki to continue discussing keeping some U.S. soldiers in Iraq after the 2011 deadline for their withdrawal, more than eight years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Reuters reported. U.S. officials say they want troops to have similar legal protections to those they have under the current security agreement, which expires this year.

Iraqi political leaders agreed in early August to open talks with Washington over the training mission, but little visible progress has been made since.

That announcement to hold negotiations came shortly after Admiral Michael Mullen, then chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, told reporters in Baghdad that any deal would require parliamentary approval stating that U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq would enjoy immunity from prosecution.

Approximately 43,500 U.S. troops remain stationed in Iraq, and all of them must withdraw by the end of the year under a bilateral security pact, which remains in force if no post-2011 deal is agree.

The United States on Tuesday meanwhile put the alleged leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq on its special anti-terror blacklist and placed a $10 million bounty on his head, Agence France-Presse reported. Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri, also known as Abu Du’a, was added to a U.S. list of “specially designated global terrorists” for his role as a top leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the State Department said.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011
BAGHDAD

Turkey to conduct military exercise near Syria

(Reuters) – Turkey’s military will conduct an exercise in the southern province of Hatay, where more than 7,000 Syrians have taken refuge from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces.

The October 5-13 “mobilization” exercise, announced on the military’s website on Tuesday, may coincide with a visit that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is expected to make to refugee camps in Hatay after he returns from South Africa this week.

The army said the exercise would involve the 39th mechanized infantry brigade and 730 reserve soldiers.

Turkey’s once-close relations with  Syria have soured as Erdogan has fiercely criticized Assad’s crackdown on protesters, urging him to end the bloodshed and enact reforms.

Syria has a longstanding territorial claim to Hatay province, but had put this on the back burner in recent years, when Erdogan and Assad cultivated close ties.

Erdogan said last month that Assad would be ousted by his people “sooner or later” and warned that Syria could slide into a sectarian civil war between Alawites and Sunnis.

Most Syrians, like most Turks, are Sunni Muslims, while Assad is from the minority Alawite Muslim sect.

Ankara, which has already imposed an arms embargo, has said it is preparing further sanctions against the Syrian government.

The Hatay exercise may revive speculation, denied by officials, that Turkeyplans to create a buffer zone in Syria to protect civilians and prevent a flood of refugees to Turkey.

Syrian refugee numbers have remained relatively low and Erdogan is under little public pressure to take decisive action.

During the 1991 Gulf War, about half a million Iraqi Kurds fled to Turkey, returning only after Western powers, along with Turkish contingents, set up a safe haven across the border.

Syria and Turkey almost went to war in the late 1990s when Damascus was sheltering Turkish Kurd guerrillas.

Syria’s old claim to Hatay has bedeviled relations with Turkey. After the Ottoman Empire collapsed in World War One, the province passed to French mandate Syria. Syria gained independence in 1936, but Hatay became part of Turkey in 1939.

Erdogan was reported to have reached an understanding with Assad in the mid-2000s whereby Syria would drop its claim on Hatay in return for enhanced trade and water rights from Turkey, but neither side has formally acknowledged any such agreement.

With relations again chilly, Turkey has hosted several meetings of Syrian opposition groups, including one at the weekend where a broad-based Syrian National Council was formed.

The council, grouping Assad’s secular and Islamist foes, said the world was obliged to protect the Syrian people, but it rejected foreign intervention that harmed Syrian sovereignty.

(Editing by Simon Cameron Moore and  Alistair Lyon)

 

 

 

 

By Jonathon Burch

ANKARA | Tue Oct 4, 2011 8:36am EDT

Removed devices for ‘curiosity,’ soldiers say in copter crash testimony

Two soldiers arrested in the investigation into the death of the leader of the Great Union Party, or BBP, say they removed flight-recording devices from the helicopter crash site ‘out of curiosity,’ not on orders, according to their testimonies
Soldiers alleged of removing flight record devices from the crashed helicopter are seen in this video grab. Hürriyet Photo.
Soldiers alleged of removing flight record devices from the crashed helicopter are seen in this video grab. Hürriyet Photo.

Two active-duty soldiers arrested Sunday in the investigation into the 2009 helicopter crash that killed the leader of the Great Union Party, or BBP, removed flight-recording devices from the wreckage “out of curiosity,” according to their testimonies.

The soldiers, who were among seven suspects arrested Sunday in connection with the alleged disappearance of devices containing flight information about BBP leader Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu’s helicopter, are alleged to be the ones responsible for dismantling the devices and removing them from the helicopter.

The soldiers said in their testimony that they received no orders to dismantle the devices, and that they did it “simply out of curiosity.”

The investigators who were first on the scene to prepare the crash report were also criticized for having neglected the issue of missing devices in their report. Despite their claims of the possibility of the devices being pulled out afterward, photos of the crash site show that the devices were in place before the report was completed.

The helicopter carrying Yazıcıoğlu had crashed in a mountainous region in central Turkey while he was traveling from an election rally on March 25, 2009. All passengers were found dead when the wreckage was located 47 hours later, including journalist İsmail Güneş, who called for help before succumbing to injuries he sustained in the accident.

The delay in reaching the wreckage had caused uproar in some circles, leading to allegations that Yazıcıoğlu had been deliberately left to die.

Monday, October 3, 2011
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet