Coup pilots’ radio conversations reveal how Turkish Parliament, police HQ were bombed
Sedat Ergin – ISTANBULThe radio conversations of pilots who participated in the failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt have revealed how critical state institutions were bombed in the capital Ankara.
A number of critical points in Ankara, including the Turkish Parliament complex, were bombed by F-16 fighter jets during the attempted takeover. The jets took off from the Akıncı Air Base, used by soldiers as a headquarters to coordinate the coup attempt that left 250 people dead.
As a standard procedure in the Air Forces, all radio conversations are recorded automatically during military flights. The conversations between the pilots and the desk for the 141st Fleet, which was used by an operation center, were therefore recorded as part of the aforementioned procedure.
Complying with orders coming from the air base, the coup pilots’ conversations reveal the tactics that they used to intimidate citizens, including flying at high speeds and low altitudes to create disturbing “sonic booms.”
Staff Squadron leader Mehmet Fatih Çavur was the first pilot to take off from the Akıncı Air Base at around 10:08 p.m. and he returned to the base at around 10:45 p.m. after flying low over Ankara.
At 10:47 p.m., 143rd Fleet Commander Staff Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Azimetli asked Çavur through the radio whether he had taken off and landed.
“Affirmative. Things are happening everywhere. But they don’t have ears anymore,” Çavur said in response, meaning that the people of Ankara may have become deaf due to the sound of sonic booms.
“My statement that ‘they don’t have ears anymore’ was a deliberate sentence meaning they may have lost their hearing because of the noise of the warplane,” Çavur said in his testimony.
In one of the other radio conversations, Captain Uğur Uzunoğlu indicates that he knew he would kill many people when he dropped bombs on the Police Special Forces Department.
Pilots took off from 141st Fleet and received coordinates on where to bomb and where to create sonic booms from the 143rd Fleet, north of the Akıncı Air Base.
The 143rd Fleet was another decision center of the air base and the coup attempt. Former General Hakan Evrim and Colonel Ahmet Özçetin, as well as civilian leaders of the thwarted coup, Adil Öksüz, Kemal Batmaz, Hakan Biniş and Nurettin Oruç, were all at the 143rd Fleet on the night of the coup attempt.
Özçetin conveyed all the orders to the 141st Fleet from the 143rd Fleet. The commanders who were held hostage, meanwhile, were kept in the 141st Fleet.
All the critical decisions of the attempted takeover were adopted by a team at the 143rd Fleet, including the bombing of the Turkish Parliament, where lawmakers had gathered for an extraordinary session.
The first bombing was carried out against the Security General Directorate’s Aviation Department after a conversation between Azimetli and Captain Ekrem Aydoğdu, who were flying with the call sign “ASLAN 1,” and Captain Ahmet Tosun at the 141st Fleet.
At 11:08 p.m., Tosun told Azimetli that he can hit a police helicopter, with the approval of the “operations commander,” meaning Özçetin.
At 11:17 p.m., Tosun ordered Aydoğdu to hit “any moving targets” in the area around the main gates of the military facilities.
“One helicopter has been destroyed,” Aydoğdu said at 11:18 p.m., asking for permission to hit another helicopter.
“The order is to hit any moving targets. That is the order of our operations commander,” Tosun said in response.
Seven people were killed and five others were wounded in the bombing, which was carried out by Captain Ertan Koral and Lieutenant Mehmet Çetin Kaplan, who were flying with the call sign “ASLAN 2,” after “ASLAN 1” marked the target with a laser.
The second attack was carried out against the Police Special Forces Department by Captain Uğur Uzunoğlu and Captain Hüseyin Türk. By causing the deaths of 44 special forces members and wounding 36 people, the bombing marked the incident with the highest number of casualties during the attempted takeover.
Uzunoğlu later dropped a bomb on the garden of parliament and Türk bombed Türksat, Turkey’s top satellite network, as well as the parliament building early on July 16, 2016. This makes Uzunoğlu and Türk the pilots with the lengthiest criminal records in the failed coup.
In addition, a bomb was dropped on the Ankara Provincial Police Headquarters by Captain İlhami Aygül and Lieutenant Mehmet Yurdakul, who were flying with the call sign “ASLAN 4,”upon the orders of Captain Mustafa Mete Kaygusuz at the 143rd Fleet.
Two people were killed and 39 were wounded in the first bombing at 12:56 a.m. on July 16 when Kaygusuz ordered the pilots to destroy the police building.
The second bombing was carried out by Lieutenant Mustafa Özkan, who was flying alone with the call sign “ASLAN 4-2,” around 12 minutes later.
One of the most critical incidents of the thwarted coup was bombing of parliament. After the General Assembly of parliament had gathered for the extraordinary session at 1:39 a.m. on July 16, the coup plotters decided to send two warplanes to the parliament’s building around 45 minutes later.
The decision was conveyed to F-16 jets flying with the call sign “ASLAN 1” and “ASLAN 5” by Tosun and Lt. Col. Hasan Hüsnü Balıkçı, after which Uzunoğlu bombed the parliament’s garden.
It can be heard from the radio conversations that Uzunoğlu actually wanted to bomb the parliament building but he was instead told to create sonic booms over it.
The sixth bombing was carried out against Türksat antennas by Türk at 3:15 a.m. There were still bombs left on the jet after this raid, and they were used to bomb parliament 10 minutes later. This caused massive damage to the building.
The eighth attack was carried out in front of the Presidential Palace at 6:19 a.m. when Lieutenant Müslim Macit dropped two bombs in front of the building while talking to Lt. Col. Hakan Karakuş. The attack was recorded as the last bombing of the attempted coup, causing the deaths of 15 people.