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"Our martyrs were equipped with special gear provided for heavy winter conditions. Lack of equipment and unpreparedness is out of question", told a challenging Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu refuting widespread charges of official negligence for the loss of two special warfare personnel in the southeast Tunceli countryside during a counter insurgency operation.
A public statement by the Tunceli Governorate on Oct. 27 informed that "two gendarme personnel Asım Türkel and Ferruh Dikmen taken to hospital with the diagnosis of hypothermia had lost their lives." The report was augmented by social media video clips displaying shievering soldiers in raincoats under snow and desperately commenting on their fate: "We will die here."
The reports triggred angry public reactions. Alpay Antmen a main opposition CHP law maker carried the popular reaction to the parliament today in a written question to Interior Minister Soylu. "Public opinion is shocked with deep regret and is raged that two Turkish soldiers in the hi-tech age of 21st century are frozen to death", he said and asked "why would the two soldiers have lost their lives if their gear was suitable for winter conditions."
Süleyman Soylu had to face the criticisms as the soldiers belonged to gendarme special troops operating under the supervision of the Gendarme General Command which is attached to Interior Ministry.
Albeit charging critics harshly, Soylu commenting on the incident admitted that "teams of 12 were part of an airborne operation and were dropped to a landlocked timberless region" many days ago. "The team was trapped in the area under unexpectedly worsening weather conditions what prevented air support until Oct. 26" he said. And added "unfortunately the two personnel was in urgent health conditions and could not survive as they were reached finally."
Yet, a stubborn Soylu insisted that "The same weather conditions do not lead to same effects for every person", and refrained from relating the incident to the degree of war pareparedness of the troops.
Nevertheless they were "aware of responsibilites" Soylu told the press. "We have tasked inspectors and will see what was missing after the investigation?"
Following the collapse of three years of peace negotiations between 2013-2015, the armed conflict between the Turkish security forces -including land and air forces, special police and army units and village guards- and the Kurdish guerrilla PKK resumed to continue causing the lives of thousands of soldiers, civilians and PKK fighters.
Figures vary, but most observers converge on the rounded figures that the ongoing fight since 1984 has caused the lives of at least 7 thousand security personnel, some 5 thousand civilians and some 40 thousand Kurdish fighters.
Government spokesperson Ömer Çelik last week turned down the call by Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Pervin Buldan for resumption of the negotiations process. "This is the language of the terrorists." he refuted. (EK)
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