'Regional commander used us as bait,' Turkish officer says in court
Turkish Armed Forces photoNeglect by the regional commander in Diyarbakır is responsible for the deaths of 13 Turkish soldiers who were killed last year in the southeastern province, according to three senior military officials speaking today at a trial into the matter.
The Diyarbakır military court listened to suspects Lt. Mehmet Emin Karagöz, Maj. Milbay Şahin and Col. Murat Toprak, who stand accused of neglect.
All three officers claimed Diyarbakır regional commander Gen. Ünal Karaosmanoğlu risked the soldiers' lives by forcing them to march into dangerous territory despite their cautionary reports advising him to allow them to rest before walking into a possible clash with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
"Gen. Karaosmanoğlu used us as bait," Karagöz, who commanded the company which suffered the casualties, said in court.
"He sent us into a firefight knowing that my men were exhausted, hungry and dehydrated. I called in for fire support numerous times during the clash but they sent a helicopter one hour after the attack was over,” Karagöz said.
Thirteen soldiers were burned to death and seven were injured in a clash with the PKK in Diyarbakır's Silvan district on July 14, 2011. The troops were conducting an operation to rescue two soldiers kidnapped by the PKK when they came under attack by the militant group.
Karagöz said Karaosmanoğlu refused to send in reinforcements from the special forces even though he knew they were entering a dangerous area.
Toprak said his request to conduct a rescue operation with two squadrons rather than two companies due to harsh terrain was rejected by Karaosmanoğlu.
Şahin said the two companies were forced to march for three days before they were attacked and that his advice to let the soldiers rest was rejected by Toprak, who, in turn, was allegedly acting on orders from Karaosmanoğlu.
Karagöz said Karaosmanoğlu was trying to make his subordinates take the fall for his failure.