On Tuesday, various reports appeared in the Turkish press claiming that a series of mistakes during the course of a military operation in Hatay last week that saw a major and two lieutenants killed was due to negligence.
Three soldiers died on May 17 in a clash that broke out when their battalion was ambushed by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the Amanos Mountains of Hatay. Gendarmerie intelligence unit chief Maj. Erhan Dikmen, Gendarmerie Special Ops commander Senior Lt. Aytaç Kaya and team commander Lt. Ahmet Tarım died in the clashes, but news reports claimed on Tuesday the three men had been ambushed while looking for a deputy commander who had lost his way with an armored vehicle during the operation.
Following the reports, the Dörtyol Prosecutor's Office in Hatay launched a probe to investigate whether there was any negligence in the incident. The prosecutor's office has requested all documents, including autopsy reports, all evidence from the crime scene and all correspondence regarding the attack. Prosecutors will also hear the testimony of a fourth officer who was pulled out alive from the vehicle that had been ambushed by the PKK.
Reports point to a series of incidents of negligence in Hatay, including the failure of the general in charge of the operation to heed recommendations not to deploy 300 men to a forested area with a strong PKK presence just to seize three hand grenades based on the descriptions of a captured militant; the failure of a lieutenant colonel to locate the field in which the troops had been deployed; the ordering by the provincial commander of three officers who had not previously been assigned to participate in the operation to find the lieutenant colonel; the failure to give these three men an armored vehicle; the failure to take Lt. Tarım, who died of his wounds after the attack, to the hospital in time; and the failure to employ unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) to survey the area prior to launching the operation.
In related developments, a military expert report released on Tuesday regarding an attack that took place in Silvan, a district of Diyarbakır, on July 14, 2011, that resulted in the deaths of 13 officers has also revealed a series of critical errors.
The expert report was submitted to the Diyarbakır 7th Army Corps Military Court, where Col. Mehmet Murat Toprak, Maj. Mirbay Şahin and 1st Army unit commander Senior Lt. Mehmet Emin Karagöz are on trial for neglecting their duties and causing the deaths of 13 soldiers in an operation against the PKK.
According to the report, the officers in charge of the operation did not obey orders, command officers in the region took no measures to stop the attack despite intelligence suggesting the presence of a terrorist group near the unit that was attacked, the location chosen as the base for the troops was unsuitable and both night and daytime camps were set up at the same site. The report lists 20 such errors found by the military expert.