A lieutenant colonel who was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of causing the death of a senior lieutenant and has been accused by the public of failing to prevent the deaths of 12 soldiers in a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist attack on a military outpost in Dağlıca, Hakkari province, says there is much more to the attack and the ensuing investigation than the public knows, asserting that he was chosen as a scapegoat to throw suspicion off of those truly responsible.
In addition to the 12 deaths, eight soldiers were kidnapped by terrorists in the course of the attack on Oct. 21, 2007. These eight soldiers, who were returned by the PKK after two weeks, also had to stand trial on charges of disobeying orders. The attack and a subsequent investigation were ridden with controversy from the start. Then-Lt. Col. Onur Dirik, who was in command of the battalion that was attacked, has not yet faced charges over his suspected negligence. Instead, he was sentenced to three years in prison by a military court in June 2010, which was affirmed by a military appeals court on Oct. 4, for causing the death of a senior lieutenant who gave him orders to clear out mines that had been planted by the PKK. He was also discharged from the military.
Dirik spoke with Today’s Zaman from his jail cell last week, detailing in-depth information about the attack. He indicated that what the public knows about the attack is only the tip of the iceberg and added that he is ready to talk with public prosecutors about what he knows.
Dirik said the PKK appeared to be “seriously” well-informed about the Dağlıca battalion and expressed concern about the potential fait of the investigation report prepared in the aftermath of the attack. According to Dirik, his prison sentence is the result of an attempt to lay blame for the results of the attack on him alone.
The former lieutenant colonel notes that odd things occurred before and after the attack. He said that after his battalion was moved from Hakkari’s Çukurca district to Dağlıca, they were given orders to work at a construction site on the grounds that the contractor who had been awarded the tender lacked sufficient manpower and resources. Dirik said, “I think there are some grave questions that need to be answered at this point, as my battalion had the specific assignment to establish dominant control over the area.” He indicated that the construction work over time curtailed the combat capacities and skills of the battalion, noting it even appeared as an attempt to render the battalion weak and useless in the face of a terrorist attack. He recalls a local villager saying, “They are not going to send Cobras [military helicopters] to a place where they don’t even send construction equipment. I guess the terrorists can see that too, if I can.” Dirik, however, insists that they took all possible measures against a terrorist presence and terrorist activity in the region despite all of the adversity they had to endure.
Another point he finds suspicious about the attack was that the battalion was preparing for an operation in the area against terrorists in the region. In fact, the decision to stage a military operation in the area had been made only four hours before the attack. He noted they knew about 28 days before the attack that terrorist groups in the region had been identified as an unusual mobile. He said the planned operation was to be launched against two hills where the terrorists were known to be hiding, but superior commanders ordered it canceled. The battalion also received orders to join a highway security operation in the opposite direction of the original target, which would leave few people at the base.
Dirik feels the goal of the Dağlıca attack was to place the government in a difficult position. He also clarified that he was not in attendance at a wedding during the attack as was claimed in the media, saying that the pictures printed in some newspapers showing him at a festive occasion were from a New Year’s event that had been organized to boost troops’ morale.
16 October 2011, Sunday / MUSTAFA GÜRLEK, İSTANBUL