Turkish PM, opposition leader trade barbs over blast

Turkish PM, opposition leader trade barbs over blast

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish PM, opposition leader trade barbs over blast

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu speaks at a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Ankara. AA photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu yesterday upped the ante in the debate over the cause of a blast at an ammunition depot in Afyonkarahisar, which killed 25 soldiers on Sept. 5. Erdoğan has also announced that four officers who were stationed at the military barracks in the western Anatolian province have been relocated on the orders of the chief of General Staff as part of the ongoing judicial and administrative investigations.

“He [Kılıçdaroğlu] says [the incident] was ‘99 percent [certain to have been] sabotage,’ and when the deputy chief of General Staff [Gen. Hulusi Akar] called him he said he would make a statement on the issue, and that he didn’t say anything like this,” Erdoğan said.

If the blast was caused by neglect or sabotage, that will become clear after the investigations are finalized, he said, adding that three commissioned officers -- a colonel, a lieutenant colonel and a major -- and one non-commissioned officer have been relocated upon the initiative of Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, thereby lending strength to assumptions that the investigation’s findings so far point to neglect as a cause.

“Can something like this -- such inconsistent and insincere effort for picking points -- exist?” Erdoğan said, targeting Kılıçdaroğlu, who said the blast was “99.5 percent likely to have been sabotage.”

In the interview, Kılıçdaroğlu referred to anonymous senior commanders as having told him “there are strong indications showing that [the blast was a result of] sabotage.”

Referring to the fact that Kılıçdaroğlu had yet to confirm his statement, Erdoğan called on the CHP leader to clarify whether he had made this remark or not. If Kılıçdaroğlu does not deny having made the remark, then the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) should take Kılıçdaroğlu to court on charges of defamation, Erdoğan said.

Kılıçdaroğlu was defiant when he spoke at a press conference held at the CHP’s headquarters later in the day. Responding to Erdoğan’s remark that he should be tried, Kılıçdaroğlu said he is not afraid of court cases.

“Will you frighten me with court cases, with official notices?” Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding that the CHP is fighting for democracy, freedom and transparency in government, and that it will not give up this fight.

“The information I received indicated the blast [was caused by sabotage]. I am the leader of the main opposition party; I talk to everyone, I call and ask for information from everyone,” Kiliçdaroğlu said. “The chief of general staff says ‘everything is obvious.’ If everything is obvious then people want to get accurate information. Why doesn’t [the government] inform [the public]? … All the experts say it was sabotage. No one says it was an accident.”

Kılıçdaroğlu called on those responsible to resign, without openly giving their names.

Governor warned
The government has issued a warning to Afyon Gov. İrfan Balkanlıoğlu, who courted public outrage by presenting gifts to Turkey’s top general during his visit to the province two days after 25 soldiers were killed in the munitions depot blast, Erdoğan said. Balkanlıoğlu should have acted more sensitively, Erdoğan said, adding that the public outcry against the gesture was fair. “We have given the necessary warning to the governor in person,” he said. The incident saddened Gen. Özel as well, he said, in an apparent bid to make it clear that Gen. Özel played no role in the governor’s actions.