Few months ago, an explosion took place at the Turkish military arms depots, which according to intelligence sources was staged by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to erase the tracks of arms and explosives Erdoğan had provided to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Maj. Ahmet Özcan, head of the Intelligence Assessment Center (İstihbarat Değerlendirme Merkezi), told the court in a prepared statement that explosions branded as accidents in Turkish military arms depots were orchestrated to fix the problem of arms missing from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).
“Everyone knows that record keeping is a very sensitive issue in the TSK and that reports are required to de-register even a smallest equipment [from the stockpile]. The missing [items] in the records were fixed by blowing up ammunition depots staffed by the MKE in [the Turkish cities of] Afyon and Urfa and [territory under the control of Turkey on the island of] Cyprus, which resulted in the killing and wounding of dozens of Turkish soldiers,” Özcan wrote in his statement, obtained by Nordic Monitor, a newspaper publishing investigative reports on Turkey.
The MKE refers to Turkey’s state-owned Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation (MKE), which manufactures explosives, ammunition, arms and other military equipment for the Turkish army.
“If you go online and watch ISIS propaganda videos, you can easily see the MKE logo on ammunition crates. It wouldn’t take much to look for evidence,” he added.
Özcan was referring to an explosion that ripped through a munition’s depot in the western province of Afyonkarahisar and killed 25 soldiers on Sept. 5, 2012. The Turkish military downplayed the blast, and critics claimed that if there were proper accountability and a thorough review of military records, the explosion would not have happened.
Another explosion took place in Turkey’s southeastern Şanlıurfa province on Nov. 13, 2019, injuring 16 soldiers. The blast occurred at the 20th Armored Brigade Command armory in Haliliye, which is located near the border with Syria. The third one Özcan was referring to happened on the divided island of Cyprus, whose northern part is under the control of the Turkish military. At 01:30 on September 12, 2019 an explosion in a military zone in Turkish Cyprus’ coastal city of Girne ripped through the Ammunition Division Command.
As an official at a key intelligence center in the Turkish capital, Özcan was in a position to access confidential information. Since he worked for the gendarmerie, a military force with a law enforcement mandate in rural areas and border provinces where jihadists used to smuggle weapons, fighters and logistics, he knew much about the Erdoğan government’s secret links to al-Qaeda groups and ISIS, mostly using the Turkish intelligence agency MIT as a conduit.
“[Turkish] soldiers also know very well that trucks loaded at the TSK’s ammunition depots went [to ISIS]”, Özcan noted, adding, “I can already say that similar explosions may happen in the future.”
The MKE-manufactured materiel was confirmed to have been used by ISIS. On September 9, 2014 the Taraf daily reported that MKE-marked ammunition had been found after a fight between ISIS militants and Kurdish forces in Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq. According to the report the US experts who examined the scene were surprised to see the MKE mark on ISIL ammunition.
The government shut down the Taraf daily in 2016 and jailed its former editor-in-chief, prominent author Ahmet Altan, as well as the daily’s top investigative reporter Mehmet Baransu on fabricated charges.
The use of MKE materiel by ISIS was part of a question submitted to parliament in September 2014 as well. Then-Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz was asked to confirm or deny whether ISIS had MKE-marked ammunition. “Did the Defense Ministry sell this ammunition to the organization? If the ministry didn’t sell it, how did this ammunition fall into the hands of ISIS?” MP Lütfü Türkkan asked, adding that he wanted to know if Turkey had received any money from the organization in exchange for the ammunition.
In a belated, one-sentence response to the six questions, the defense minister said the MKE has never sold any ammunition to any terrorist organization.
The MKE was also under the spotlight during a 2013 criminal investigation into an al-Qaeda network in Turkey which revealed that terrorists obtained ingredients to produce sarin gas. The prosecutor’s office conducted detailed technical surveillance and found that an al-Qaeda militant acquired sarin components. Thirteen individuals were arrested during the first stage of the investigation but were later released. The investigation showed that those people who smuggled the chemicals required to produce sarin faced no difficulties, proving that Turkish intelligence was aware of their activities.
More than 1,300 people were killed in a sarin gas attack in Ghouta in 2013 and several other neighborhoods near the Syrian capital of Damascus, with the West quickly blaming the Bashar al-Assad regime and Russia claiming it was a “false flag” operation aimed at making a US military intervention in Syria possible.
Intelligence officer Özcan also drew attention to the fact that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed on October 27, 2019 in a compound outside the village of Barisha in Syria’s Idlib province, about four miles south of the Turkish border and under the control of the Turkish military. He also recalled that Abul-Hasan al-Muhajir, al-Baghdadi’s right-hand man and ISIS spokesperson, was also killed by the US in an airstrike in Ayn al-Bayda, near Jarablus in northwest Syria, a territory close to the border with Turkey and also under the control of the Turkish military.
According to Özcan, an ISIS mindset had become entrenched in Turkey’s state institutions, and many terror attacks blamed on ISIS were actually carried out with the help of some government officials to secure political gains for President Erdoğan, especially in 2015, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its majority in parliament in the June election, only to regain its seats in a snap poll on November 1. Between the two elections, three major attacks occurred in the Turkish capital including the deadliest-ever terror attack by ISIS in Turkey.
Özcan, now 42, was detained in Turkey on July 17, 2016 on fabricated coup charges when he was in the hospital awaiting a second surgery. He was wounded in the leg and hand when he thought he was responding to unknown gunmen who opened fire on Gendarmerie General Command headquarters in Ankara after an intelligence alert was issued about an imminent terrorist attack on military bases and installations. It turned out members of the police special force, dressed in civilian clothes, were ordered to fire at the base without a warning, prompting officers to think that they were actually under a terrorist attack.
Many believed the failed coup bid in 2016 was a false flag operation orchestrated by President Erdoğan to consolidate power in his hands, set up opposition groups for a mass persecution and launch an unprecedented purge of the military and government branches. Like thousands of senior officers in the military, Özcan was also a victim of the purge and imprisoned on dubious charges.
He was subjected to days of torture under detention during which he was denied access to a lawyer or family members. He was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery after torture sessions made his condition critical. The beatings by the police even continued in his hospital bed with his legs being chained to the bed railing. The beatings continued after the surgery on his leg. He had to go through a second surgery. The police referred him to the prosecutor’s office and then to the court after he was forced to sign a statement written by the police. He has been in prison since then.
When he had the opportunity to defend himself in court on December 11, 2017, he explained in detail about the torture and ill-treatment by the police and other security officers during his hospital stay and in detention. As an intelligence officer who knew a lot, he also told all he knows about the Erdogan government’s links to ISIS and other jihadist groups during a hearing on January 31, 2020 at the Ankara 23rd High Criminal Court.