On May 11, 2013, a bomb-laden vehicle that came from the Syrian border was detonated in Hatay's Reyhanlı district. This was one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in the history of the Turkish Republic. Well, what was the state doing? Rightfully, this was the first question that came to mind.
Was it possible that the state had no intelligence about such a great attack before it took place? Özcan Şişman, former Hatay Public Prosecutor who is standing trial as part of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) probe, said he did not take action despite receiving intelligence from the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), making the following statements:
"In November 2012, MİT authorities came to me, reporting that a group, including someone named Murat Özdeş, was preparing for a bomb attack. They said the group, which was operating on behalf of the Syrian intelligence, would detonate the explosives that they would bring from Syria in a tent camp in Hatay's Yayladağı district where Syrian opposition troops stayed. They said the explosives would be placed in a garbage truck. We took this as a notification and initiated an investigation."
So far, everything seems normal, with the cooperation between institutions continuing and an investigation starting. Let us continue with Şişman's remarks:
"During the technical follow-up, meetings about the attack were only once found in audio surveillance. However, nothing was found about putting it into action. Several times, MİT authorities offered us to carry out an operation. I said that there was not enough evidence and that they must mind their own business."
There is a group living in a Turkish district which is next to the Syrian civil war. It is known with its affiliation with the Syrian intelligence.
Based on intelligence, the MİT directs a prosecutor to follow them. During the technical surveillance, you get the information that an attack will be conducted. However, I wonder why you do not expand the investigation and do not conduct audio surveillance and wiretapping against attackers and turn a deaf ear to the intelligence.
Here is the more serious part of the matter. Şişman said: "On May 8, 2013, three days before the Reyhanlı attack, a MİT authority came. He insisted on an operation in an anxious and panicked state. When he said there was not a concrete development, I warned him not to interfere in our business." Şişman also stated that there was information, which he defined to be "very valuable," from the license plates of vehicles to be used in the attack, including the names of suspects, which were among the documents which the MİT submitted to the police one day before the Reyhanlı attack.
The security bureaucracy consisting of FETÖ-affiliated soldiers, policemen and prosecutors paved the way for many terrorist incidents. They almost never conducted preventive intelligence and operations. Turkey was shaken by bombs that exploded one after another, especially at pre-electoral critical political turning points. Now, we are facing different cooperation between institutions in the post-coup period. For example, merely last week in Istanbul, the police seized eight improvised explosive devices and 15 kilograms of ammonium nitrate which were to be used by the Revolutionary Headquarters terrorist organization in an attack against police vehicles.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the police seized and destroyed nine bomb vehicles belonging to the PKK in southeastern Turkey. They also killed Daesh terrorists during raids on the organization's cell houses in Gaziantep.
The Interior Ministry announced that 19 terrorist incidents, including 11 armed attacks, were prevented last week alone. In addition, 361 people were detained on charges of aiding and abetting the PKK and Daesh. Also, a Daesh-affiliate terrorist, who was reported to be preparing a suicide bomb attack, was captured and died as a result of an operation in Ankara.
The preventive intelligence and operations of the past week alone push us to ask the following question? How many terrorist attacks could have been prevented, how many people could have survived and how many of them could not have become crippled since the Reyhanlı attack which claimed 53 lives?
About the author
Hilal Kaplan is a journalist and columnist. Kaplan is also board member of TRT, the national public broadcaster of Turkey.