Attack kills 10 soldiers despite PM’s call for lull

Attack kills 10 soldiers despite PM’s call for lull

BİNGÖL - Doğan News Agency
Attack kills 10 soldiers despite PM’s call for lull

Black smoke rises from a bus carrying Turkish soldiers which was hit by a suspected attack by the outlawed PKK militants. The attack kills at least 10, injuring over 70. AFP photo

At least 10 Turkish soldiers were killed and some 71 were injured yesterday after a Turkish military convoy transporting unarmed soldiers returning from leave to their posts was hit by a rocket before coming under fire in an ambush conducted by suspected militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the eastern province of Bingöl.

More than 200 soldiers returning from leave were being transported to their respective military units by a convoy of five buses, with 10 armored vehicles escorting the transports. The traveling soldiers were unarmed and in civilian clothing, Bingöl Gov. Mustafa Hakan Güvençer said, speaking to private broadcaster CNNTürk after the attack.

The attack came one day after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the military operations would stop if the PKK laid down its arms.

“The terrorists should know that if they drop their arms, then the operations in the country will end. But arms cannot be silenced as long as the terrorists do not drop their arms. They would target innocent people at every opportunity [if the operations were to cease],” the prime minister said, speaking at an event in the Aegean province of Denizli.

Erdoğan was to meet with Chief of Staff Gen. Necdet Özel later yesterday.

This was the second deadly attack in the region by suspected PKK militants in the last three days, following the mine attack on a police bus in Bingöl’s Karlıova district on Sept. 16 that killed eight policemen and wounded nine others.

Eight injured soldiers were in “critical condition,” and they were transferred to more sophisticated hospitals in neighboring provinces, Gov. Güvençer said. “Those aboard the convoy were soldiers in civilian clothes and they were unarmed. The [the attackers] laid an ambush for our civilian and unarmed brothers. I hope the number of our martyrs will not increase. The evil organization has shown its ugly face once again, like it did in the atrocious attack of 1993.”

The 1993 Bingöl attack was one of the most violent PKK attacks to date, killing 33 unarmed soldiers at a roadblock in the city. The attack shattered a brief unilateral cease-fire by the PKK.

Bus hit by rocket

The convoy was traveling on the road between Bingöl and Muş when a bus in the convoy was hit by a rocket at around 12:45 p.m. Militants hiding on the side of the road opened fire on the vehicles with assault rifles, prompting a firefight with soldiers guarding the convoy. The bus that was hit by the rocket caught on fire, and the soldiers trapped inside the vehicle escaped through the smashed windows as the clash erupted.

Transfers of soldiers to their posts like this one are conducted only on “safe days,” and the soldiers’ security was protected by armored vehicles, an official told Hürriyet Daily News’s Ankara bureau yesterday.

A village guard who was on the scene told Doğan news agency that he went up to the blast zone immediately following the attack. “There were no explosives planted in the ground. They launched two rockets from a hill, striking one of the vehicles. It went up in a ball of flame,” he was quoted as saying.