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The Untold Tragedy: Betrayal and Loss of Two Turkish Soldiers to ISIS Flames

For a long time, one of the files I have been pursuing and trying to shed light on was the incident where two Turkish soldiers were burned alive by ISIS.

Finally, I reached a source who has a thorough understanding of the process and learned the details. In this article, I will discuss details unknown even to the families of the soldiers who lost their lives.

Unfortunately, the events during and after the burning of our soldiers were very grave, to the extent of betrayal.

It’s beneficial to summarize what happened first, as the details are as grave as the incident itself.

In fact, until the video of the soldiers being burned was released, Turkey did not know that two of its soldiers were hostages in the hands of ISIS. The only statement about the soldiers, who had been in ISIS’s hands for a long time, was made on September 1, 2015, without naming names, saying ‘contact was lost with a soldier.’

When ISIS published the burning images on December 22, 2016, there was a panic in the government. Access to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube was blocked, and the internet was slowed down.

Subsequently, the government spokesman at the time, Numan Kurtulmuş, denied the incident and threatened the media in front of the cameras. Erdoğan’s coalition partner Perinçek claimed the tape was fake and the news was false.

For a long time, no official statement was made about this.

After the family of Sefter Taş filed a missing persons case, a delegation from the General Staff quietly and secretly visited the family and declared their child a martyr.

Family members were given jobs, and martyr pensions were granted.

However, there is still no statement about Fethi Şahin. According to official records, Fethi Şahin is ‘alive.’

Returning to the images.

Other scandalous details emerged in those images. The identities of the executioners were identified upon examination of the video recording. The ISIS militant prominently featured was named Talip Akkut.

The others were Hasan Aydın and Muhittin Büyükyangöz.

Why do I highlight these names? The answer actually reveals the character of the Erdoğan regime and its relations with ISIS.

Namely;

The ISIS members who burned the Turkish soldiers were known to Turkish authorities because they had been detained and released before.

For example, Hasan Aydın.

He was detained twice in 2012 and 2015. The first time, he was taken by Adana police in an Al-Qaeda operation and released. Three years later, he was caught in Hatay.

This time the situation was even more interesting. Because he was caught with a minibus full of weapons, including rocket launchers and drones. However, the regime that jails journalists for tweeting released Aydın to be tried without detention.

He crossed over at the first opportunity and burned the Turkish soldier.

The scandal doesn’t end here. The Syrian Jamal Abdul Rahman Alwi, who ordered the burning of the Turkish soldiers, was later caught in G.Antep.

By chance.

Alwi was appointed as ISIS’s ‘Judge’ and settled in G.Antep with his wife, children, and grandchildren. Could he have been this comfortable without a guarantee that nothing would happen to him?

Wait, there’s more to the scandal series.

After being caught in G.Antep by chance on June 15, 2020, Alwi was detained. However, about a year later, the regime judges, who race to detain women making pastries for a fair, decided on his trial without detention and ordered his release.

The reason for the release is a lesson to the world: “Since the evidence was collected, there was no chance of tampering with the evidence, and considering the defendant’s family and personal excuses.”

Another scandal in Alwi’s trial was that Gaziantep 7th High Criminal Court convicted him “for the 2016 incident of killing two Turks in Syria, one of whom was a soldier.”

However, Fethi Şahin, whom the court considered a martyr, appears ‘alive’ in all official records. Letters to President Erdoğan and applications made by his family went unanswered.

As of today, Fethi Şahin still appears ‘alive.’

Let’s get to the essence of the scandal.

Organizations like ISIS kidnap people for money. They kidnap people of all nationalities and religions and in return, ask for money or a prisoner exchange.

It’s not surprising that they would hold two Turkish soldiers for exchange or money. The surprise is the Erdoğan regime’s unwillingness to retrieve the two soldiers.

The details my source told me are thought-provoking.

Moreover, the accounts of İlyas Aydın, known by the code name Abu Ubeyde, an ISIS commander in Turkey, match the information I obtained.

İlyas Aydın, captured by Kurdish groups in northern Syria, gave a long and comprehensive statement detailing the process of burning our soldiers. According to the information from my source, this happened;

The ISIS militant known as Abu Ubeyde negotiated with the MIT (Turkish Intelligence) twice. The process was overseen by MIT’s Foreign Operations Director, Kemal Eskintan. However, they could not reach an agreement in both meetings. The first meeting was interrupted by the Ankara train station bombing, and the meeting was cut short.

ISIS wanted the release of some of its militants detained in Turkey in exchange for the Turkish soldiers. MIT officials reported the situation to the Kemal Eskintan-Mustafa Varank line.

However, Erdoğan had different priorities at the time. Because he did not gain the majority to form a government in the June 2015 elections.

They were heading to the November elections through some manipulations.

Erdoğan openly threatened the public by saying, “Give us 400 deputies, and this issue will be resolved peacefully.” At that time, they did not want the kidnapping of two soldiers and negotiations with ISIS to be revealed. The instruction through Kemal Eskintan was “We are on the eve of elections, do not escalate this incident, kidnapping of soldiers causes loss of votes, wait.”

On the other hand, it was a period when MIT and the Special Forces Command were running rampant in Syria. Especially people and groups connected to MIT and the Special Forces turned the borders into a toll road for their own accounts.

Meanwhile, ISIS published a long interview with Sefter Taş in its magazine Konstantiniye in Istanbul. Taş directly appealed to President Erdoğan for his rescue.

ISIS claimed that Turkey was reluctant to take back the soldiers.

Turkey’s failure to take action to retrieve the two soldiers, its apparent disregard for paying ransom to rescue the hostages, and its indifferent attitude disturbed ISIS.

According to İlyas Aydın, they openly stated this.

The MIT agents who came to the second meeting said, “We’re receiving martyrs every day, two more martyrs won’t make much difference,” continuing their indifferent attitude.

It’s worth noting at this point.

ISIS had previously killed two hostages, a Norwegian and a Chinese, because their governments did not pay the ransom.

It’s impossible for Turkey not to know this.

Moreover, in June 2011, ISIS attacked Turkey’s consulate in Mosul and took 49 people hostage. Turkey managed to rescue these hostages through negotiations.

So, they knew hostages could be rescued through negotiations with ISIS.

However, they did not care about the two soldiers, and ISIS committed a heinous murder.

Then, the series of scandals continued. The ISIS members who burned the two Turkish soldiers tried to sell the remains back to Turkey through the Free Syrian Army.

The asked price was $10,000.

The issue was again communicated to the Palace through Kemal Eskintan – Mustafa Varank.

However, the government rejected the offer, thinking that bringing the bodies to Turkey would escalate the issue, make the deaths official, and possibly lead to discussions of governmental negligence.

In other words, those who did not rescue the soldiers alive also prevented their remains from being brought to the country. The bones were stored in two bags near the Turkish border in a weapons depot belonging to the Sultan Murat Division.

Since Erdoğan and the MIT administration did not allow the remains of the martyrs to be brought to the country, the task of covering up the incident fell to the special forces soldiers there. A group of special forces soldiers buried what remained of the martyrs near the depot of the Sultan Murat Division.

Unfortunately, this information was not shared with Fethi Şahin’s family either.

In conclusion; these are the hidden truths for years. Two Turkish soldiers were deliberately left to die by the Erdoğan regime for electoral calculations.

ISIS then burned two soldiers wearing the uniform of the Turkish army alive.

Afterwards, when there was a possibility of bringing the remaining parts of the bodies to Turkey, they also prevented that.

Unfortunately, these are the bitter truths.

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Adem Yavuz Arslan
Adem Yavuz Arslan
Adem Yavuz Aslan is a leading Turkish investigative journalist in exile based in Washington, D.C.
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