Chief of General Staff arrives at military depot blast site
Turkey's Chief of General Staff Necdet Özel arrived in the western Afyonkarahisar today where twenty-five soldiers were killed and several others were wounded late Sept. 5 when a military depot filled with hand grenades exploded.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said yesterday in a statement that two non-commissioned officers, two special sergeants and 21 privates were killed in the blast. The blast occurred “for unknown reasons,” according to a statement posted on the TSK’s website. The statement also revealed that an administrative and judicial investigation into the incident has been launched. Forestry and Water Affairs Minister Veysel Eroğlu, an Afyonkarahisar deputy, appeared at the scene immediately and said it was not “sabotage” or “a terrorist act.” “The incident occurred as the result of an accident. This is an arsenal; accidents may occur here sometimes. Similar accidents have taken place in Pakistan and India previously. This is a tragic event, but it happened as a result of accident. It is the will of God,” Eroğlu told reporters. Eroğlu also said eight soldiers who were wounded in the accident were in good condition.
“We feel deep grief over the incident. This tragic incident is being seriously examined,” President Abdullah Gül said in a statement expressing his condolences on Sept. 6. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also sent condolence messages to Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel. Erdoğan offered his condolences to the soldiers’ families. “This tragic incident has caused deep sorrow for all of us,” Erdoğan said.
Witnesses and officials said dozens of ambulances, firefighters and rescue teams were dispatched to the blast area but were prevented from accessing much of the area for safety reasons. Both Eroğlu and Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz warned locals to be careful about unexploded ordnance around the military depot, as the deadly explosion at the facility may have deposited grenades in the surrounding area. Land Forces Commander Gen. Hayri Kıvrıkoğlu traveled to the scene shortly after the blast to inspect the area. Erdoğan, Kılıçdaroğlu and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli, as well as Gen. Özel, chose not to go to the blast scene. All three party leaders instead sent delegations composed of their party’s deputies to Afyonkarahisar.
Eroğlu said there was no reason for Erdoğan to visit the site. “There is nothing to do here,” Eroğlu said. “There is no reason for now for the prime minister and chief of General Staff to come [here].”
Mourning families await information
Özgür Ekşi - Afyonkarahisar
The families of 25 people, killed late Sept. 5 when a military depot filled with hand grenades exploded in the central western province of Afyonkarahisar, rushed to the city early yesterday morning after hearing about the deadly blast.
Their wait for the bodies of their loved ones has been painful, maybe even more so because they were given little information during their wait. The families complained of the fact that they were unable to speak with officials who could properly inform them of the incident until 3 p.m. Officials were, however, took measures to protect waiting family members from the heat of the sun.
A number of military and civilian officials entered barracks at the scene of the blast passing the families without pausing to give them any information. Families waited in silence aside from the occasional sob or cry of mourning. At one point someone cried out: “We want neither shadow nor water; we want information. We want to know whether we will get our [family members for their] funerals.”
At 3 p.m. the grieving crowd was taken inside the barracks along with a few ambulances.
The soldiers’ dead bodies would not be given to their families until Sept. 9 as the required DNA testing could take time, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said, speaking to reporters after his visit to the barracks.
When the investigation of the crime scene is completed the findings will be sent to the Ankara Forensic Medicine Institution but the Afyonkarahisar chief prosecutor, Yılmaz said.
“If there is no mishap, the dead bodies of our martyrs will be handed over to their families on Sunday. However, according to the examination at the Forensic Medicine, [the handover] maybe postponed one more day,” Yılmaz said.
Previous ammunition blasts in Turkey
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
The deadly incident in Afyonkarahisar Sept. 5 stirred memories of other similar explosions in Turkey in recent history.
On July 27, 1995 a fire erupted in the Pamukova district of northern Sakarya province. It spread to the ammunition store of the 15th Corps Command and a large amount of ammunition blew up. As a result of that explosion, 15,000 residents of the district were evacuated.
In 1997 another blast occurred in the Central Anatolian province of Kırıkkale’s Ammunition Factory, which killed four people and injured about 100 people. On Aug. 29, 2008, another blast happened in the store of a gunpowder factory belonging to MKE, causing the death of three and injuring 26 people.
On Jan. 2, 2012 the Ammunition Main Depot Command’s plant in Kırıkkale’s Yahşihan district exploded, and four workers were killed after the blast.
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