A senior Turkish commander personally ordered snipers to kill Syrian government troops without provocation in 2016 during a visit to the border area next to Syria, a special forces noncommissioned officer who served in the borderlands across from Syria said.
Testifying under oath in court, Derviş Taş, a 32-year-old first sergeant, told the panel of judges at the Ankara 17th High Criminal Court that Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakallı, then-commander of the Turkish army’s elite Special Forces Command (Özel Kuvvetler Komutanlığı, or ÖKK), ordered snipers to shoot to kill soldiers of the Bashar al-Assad government. The hearing was held in connection with the events of July 15, 2016, when a false flag coup took place to empower the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“We were on an assignment in Iskenderun. … The battalion was split in two on Mount Yayla [a mountain range in the border area located across from Syria’ northern Latakia region], right at the border. It was a mission that involved Turkmens [in Syria]. When we were there in February or March 2016, Major Gen. Zekai Aksakallı paid us a visit. The order he gave when he came to visit the battalion was this: Let your snipers shoot regime soldiers from the other side. [We knew] this was a cause for war, but we never questioned his order,” Taş said in his testimony on January 11, 2017.
His revelations in the courtroom panicked presiding judge Oğuz Dik and the Prime Ministry’s lawyer, Süleyman Ayhan, who both objected to his statement and questioned why he was revealing this in court. “Now what does this have to do with it?” judge Dik said, asking him whether he was on the side of Turkey or Syria. Ayhan asked him to leave the matter out of his statement.
Taş defended himself by saying that he related this incident as an example of how soldiers in the special forces had no choice but to follow orders from their superiors. He was being tried for his alleged involvement in the failed coup, and he was defending himself on the grounds that he complied with orders from his commanding officers in responding to what he was told at the time was a terrorist threat against the General Staff headquarters. The order for the deployment came from Col. Fırat Alakuş, who in turn told the court that he was ordered to go to the General Staff by Aksakallı himself.
Part of the court transcript of Sgt. Derviş Taş, who revealed the plan to kill Syrian government troops without any provocation:Dervis_Tas_statement_syria
In his own testimony, Col. Alakuş corroborated the account provided by Sgt. Taş and said Aksakallı was deliberately trying to drag Turkey into the Syrian quagmire because he was personally profiting from the war campaign, getting a cut of funds provided by third countries, especially Qatar, which had been financing jihadist fighters in Syria. Aksakallı was working with Turkish intelligence agency MIT in running illegal operations in Turkey and abroad according to Col. Alakuş’s testimony.
In his defense on March 7, 2018 Taş expanded on his revelations, providing more details about the plan to kill Syrian government soldiers from hideouts in the wooded area on the border.
“We never questioned this [order to kill Syrian troops], we thought our commanders knew what was best for the nation’s interests, and we said yes to the order without even thinking. We made the necessary preparations to shoot at Syrian regime solders and watched the other side of the border for three or four days. But we killed no one since no regime troops showed up there, and we left the area after receiving new orders,” Taş explained.
Derviş Taş revealed more details about the plan in his second testimony:Dervis_tas_2nd_statement
New orders actually came from Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi, who became aware of Aksakallı’s plan to drag Turkey further into the Syrian civil war and tried to prevent a provocation by ordering the troops to leave the area. Terzi was in charge of Syrian operations and thwarted several plans like the sniper shootings ordered by Aksakallı, a war-profiteering general who wanted to create more conflict with Syria and its backers. Terzi dispatched several reports to the General, Staff, protesting Aksakallı’s clandestine and illegal operations with MIT but he was executed on July 15, 2016 under orders from Aksakallı, who gave repeated instructions to his aide to kill Terzi.
Taş had been with the special forces since 2011, working in the borderlands near Syria and Iraq. He was ordered to join a team of special troops to provide security for the General Staff on July 15, 2016. He was guarding an alley inside the General Staff compound when he came under fire. He was told the headquarters were under attack. He waited in a ditch until the next morning, when the police came in and detained him for his alleged involvement in the coup. He had been subjected to brutal torture for days at an unofficial detention site, denied food and water, and forced to sign a false statement that he was not even allowed to read first. He told the court how the police fabricated a statement.
On June 20, 2019 Taş was convicted and ordered to serve 11 aggravated life sentences on coup plotting charges based on dubious evidence. Aksakallı, who gave a direct order to Taş’s team to go to the General Staff, was not even named as a suspect in the case because he played a critical role in executing the false flag coup in cooperation with the Turkish intelligence agency. Aksakallı, a major general at the time, was later rewarded with a promotion to lieutenant general in 2016. He was commander of a Turkish military operation in Syria in August 2016. He was assigned as commander of the 2nd Army Corps and retired in July 2020.
The full 20-page defense statement of Sgt. Derviş Taş:Dervis_tas_full_testimony
This was not the first time some generals in the Turkish military and the leadership at spy agency MIT had planned a false flag operation to create more conflicts with Syria. In January 2019 a Turkish court confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio clip in which top-ranking Turkish officials are heard discussing the possibility of an intervention in Syria in a false flag operation conducted by MİT. In the leaked recording then-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, then-Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, MİT chief Hakan Fidan and then-Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler are heard discussing military operations in Syria in Davutoğlu’s Foreign Ministry office on March 13, 2013.
Fidan says in the recording: “If needed, I would dispatch four men to Syria. [Then] I would have them fire eight mortar shells at the Turkish side and create an excuse for war.”
The judicial confirmation of the scandalous content was inadvertently revealed when the public prosecutor tried to pin the leak on a group critical of the government of President Erdogan as part of espionage charges. The statements in the leak, included in the indictment as allegations, were formally confirmed by the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court in a reasoned decision that was announced on Jan. 16, 2019.
“A top-secret meeting was held at the Foreign Ministry with the participation of the minister, his undersecretary, the MİT undersecretary and the deputy chief of general staff. The conversation in the meeting was illegally recorded for reasons of political and military espionage, and the recordings were posted online. The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched this espionage case on March 27, 2014 in investigation file No. 2014/47602,” the court said in its ruling.
The investigation of the leak was turned into an indictment on June 6, 2016 under file No. E.2016/24769, and the same allegations were included in the indictment. The Ankara court announced its decision on February 17, 2017 but postponed the publication of its reasoned decision until January 2019.