Turkey denies claims pilots killed by Syria
A piece belonging to downed Turkish jet is seen under the sea.A claim by Saudi news channel Al Arabiya that two Turkish pilots were murdered by Syrian intelligence
after their plane crashed June 22 is “absolute nonsense,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said yesterday as other ministry officials referred reporters to the findings of an autopsy the Turkish
General Staff performed on the pilots’ bodies.
The documents were also dismissed as “not credible” by a Turkish military expert.
The two Turkish pilots, who were thought to have perished when their jet was shot down by Damascus, were actually rescued, interrogated and murdered by Syrian intelligence services, secret documents released Sept. 29 by Al Arabiya purported to show. The document that was allegedly sent directly from President Bashar al-Assad’s office to Brig. Hassan Abdel Rahman, the chief of Syria’s Special Operations Unit, reportedly first ordered the concerned parties to treat the two pilots, Air Force Cpt. Gökhan Ertan and Air Force Lt. Hasan Hüseyin Aksoy, according to the protocol of war prisoners.
The documents then suggested the possibility of transferring them into the custody of Syrian ally Hezbollah in Lebanon. “Based on information and guidance from the Russian leadership, [there is] a need to eliminate the two Turkish pilots detained by the Special Operations Unit in a natural way, and their bodies need to be returned to the crash site in international waters,” the document said.
Speaking with the Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity, the senior ministry official described the report as “absolute nonsense.”
But retired Turkish Gen. Erdoğan Karakuş dismissed the murder claims. “You will first find the wreckage at 1200 to 1300 meters, and then you will place the bodies of the pilots in there,” said Karakuş, who is also an air force expert. “This is not very credible. Syria does not have the technology to do it, and wouldn’t the Turkish Naval Forces notice [Syria placing the bodies back in the water]?” he said.