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MIDEAST >Turkish Special Forces: From stopping a coup to the frontline of the ISIL fight

ISTANBUL

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The Turkish Special Forces are playing a key role in the operation launched at 04.00 a.m. on Aug. 24 to back the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to free the Syrian town of Jarablus from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

According to military sources speaking on condition of anonymity, Turkish special forces “like those of others such as the Americans, Russians, British, etc.,” are not carrying out the actual fight but are supporting the FSA movements.

The Turkish forces are under the command of Lieutenant General Zekai Aksakallı who was seen by reporters at the “zero line” of the Turkish-Syria border this morning.

Aksakallı was recently promoted to this rank by the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ), chaired by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, in its first meeting since the failed coup attempt of July 15.

Aksakallı, in his former capacity as major general, played a key role in the defeat of the attempted coup after realizing that his deputy, Brigadier General Salih Terzi, was an active member of the junta. 

Terzi was actually in charge of the special ops along the Syria border (and when necessary across it). He was not supposed to be in the capital Ankara on the night of the coup attempt, but he was there to raid and seize the Special Forces HQ near the city. 

Aksakallı got trapped inside the Special Forces HQ as the plot was underway, after which he phoned his bodyguard, Sergeant Major Ömer Halisdemir, who was outside the building. According to his own testimony, Aksakallı told Halisdemir that Terzi was a traitor and said Halisdemir should stop him from entering the building, shooting and killing him if necessary at the expense of his own “martyrdom.” 

As soon as taking his orders, Halisdemir intervened in the soldiers advancing toward the building with Terzi.

He ordered them to stop but they instead sprayed him with bullets, killing him on the spot.

Aksakallı was ultimately able to take control and, with soldiers loyal to the government, raid the Akıncı Air Base, which had been seized by the plotters to be used as their operation center. It was also the site where abducted top brass were being held, and the saving of them marked a turning point in the coup attempt.

The late Halisdemir’s name has since been given to a number of places like schools and parks. Aksakallı was also promoted and is now leading the operation to back the Free Syria Army operation against ISIL in Jarablus.

Documents seized from the case of the chief of personnel of the Joint Staff, who is now under arrest as one of the organizers of the plot, show that if the coup had succeeded Terzi would have become head of the Special Forces and Aksakallı would have been retired, if not worse.

August/24/2016

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