The General Staff Directorate officially denied allegations related to "deliberate passiveness" in the attack of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on a police outpost in Han Tepe, Çukurca, in the south-eastern province of Hakkari on 20 July. Seven soldiers were killed in the attack.
Bugün newspaper, various internet sites and news in the mainstream media had reported in July that the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) recorded the communication of Air Force staff members during the PKK raid. According to the voice records, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) took efforts to keep unmanned air vehicles (Heron) out of the issue in order to avoid casualties on the side of the PKK, the news said.
Remaining silent on this issue, the General Staff Directorate was criticized by the media as well as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Eventually, the General Staff Directorate published an announcement about the so-called "Heron Scandal" on their web site on Saturday (21 August), saying the following:
1. Different news, comments and pictures were published in the media related to the terrorist attack in the night of 19/20 July 2010 on the police force outpost and the base region of Han Tepe in the district of Çukurca in the province of Hakkari.
2. A judicial investigation was immediately initiated by the Public Prosecutor as it is the usual procedure for any case of domestic security issues involving casualties. In addition, an administrative investigation team was formed by the Gendarmerie Public Order Corps Command and launched an administrative investigation of the incident. On 30 July 2010, the Gendarmerie Public Order Corps Command Military Prosecutor demanded an investigation as well.
3. Before information on how the incident actually happened was communicated, the outcome and evaluation of the administrative investigation was awaited. This way, incomplete and wrong information would not be conveyed to the public and an ongoing investigation would not be interfered with.
4. The administrative investigation reached the relevant staff on 9 August. The ongoing investigation is based on the evaluation of the administrative investigation and other information and documents related to the incident. Without causing harm to the ongoing investigation, matters about the event can be explained as follows:
a. Dense terrorist fire was opened on the police forces and base region outpost in Han Tepe on the night of 20 July at 1.45 am simultaneously from six different points. The then 2nd Army Commander (then 2nd Army Commander Gen. Necdet Özel appointed to the Gendarmerie General Command) who was in Diyarbakır at the time was informed so that he followed the incident from 2.00 am onwards and was involved in the management and the administration of the incident.
b. Unmanned air vehicles monitoring a different region 40 km away from the incident were immediately directed to the scene. They reached Han Tepe at 2.15 am and started broadcasting images. It is out of the question that they transmitted pictures of the terrorists approaching the region before the attack.
c. The earliest images transmitted by the unmanned air vehicles were received at 2.31 am and showed the situation 45 minutes after the beginning of the attack.
d. An order was given to combat helicopters stationed in Hakkari. They prepared for a quick set off but were forced to return to Hakkari after 30 minutes due to dense fog and dust over the Çığlı Suyu (Zap) valley. They were not able to reach the region of Cukurca.
e. The same helicopters reached the Han Tepe region at 4.30 am after weather conditions had improved. They opened gun fire on the terrorists that were trying to get away from the scene.
f. The escaping terrorists were subject to artillery and mortar fire at the same time.
g. After sunrise, the terrorists restricted the helicopters' activities with Doçka anti aircraft weapons deployed in the region. They escaped via the highway since the helicopters could not land.
h. Upon the detection of the deployed Doçka (AA) weapons, the posts were destroyed.
i. It is determined by the 2nd Army Command which authorities will review the pictures of the unmanned air vehicles by only considering the involved units. The allegation that 30 different offices reviewed the pictures was deliberate disinformation.
j. As can be seen from the shape of the events, the pictures published in the media were taken after the attack had started and the related commands did take or tried to take the necessary measures during the attack.
5. The necessary administrative and judicial proceedings regarding this incident were initiated in a timely manner as they were in other incidents too.
The Turkish Armed Forces are extremely cautious about the confidential stages of the investigation and avoid any announcements during the stages of the ongoing investigation, except very urgent cases. It is improper and wrong to impose any other meaning on this sensitivity. (EK/VK)