Seven Turkish soldiers were killed and more than 25 wounded when an artillery ammunition depot exploded last week.
The military base was located in Hakkari Province, in southeastern Turkey. Hakkari borders both Iraq and Iran. Turkish military forces stationed there have been conducting counterinsurgency operations against the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). This is not a peaceful borderline, but an active warzone.
From the emerging reports, it appears that the explosion occurred whilst the base was conducting live-fire drills. Since 2016, Turkey has launched several offensives into Syria and Iraq to repel fighters belonging to Kurdish armed groups. The success of these operations has been debatable.
But this has not been the only deadly accident to engulf the Turkish military. On November 16, one Turkish soldier was killed and four injured whilst their mortar tube exploded as they were conducting live-fire drills.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said, “We have seven martyrs and 25 wounded soldiers due to the explosion.” Soon thereafter, however, the Turkish government imposed a ban on all media reports of the incident. This is a common tactic with the Turkish regime, especially after a major terrorist attack or a botched military operation.
Both incidents showcase the poor state of the Turkish military. Two years after the military coup that sought to oust Erdogan, the Turkish regime is still trying to recover. Thousands of officers and non-commissioned officers have been fired or jailed over their participation to the coup. This has left the Turkish Armed Forces in a weak state, particularly the Turkish Air Force.
The PKK launched its insurgency in 1984, advocating a free and unified Kurdistan. The communist-affiliated group has been designated as a terrorist organisation by both the United States and the European Union. The Syrian Civil War, however, has necessitated Western cooperation with the PYD, the Syrian offshoot of the PKK. Turkey, of course, has taken great offence at this apparent cynical approach to foreign policy from the U.S. Turkey, however, has not hesitated to shift sides when it suited it best.
In 2015, the Turkish government was consumed in a serious diplomatic brawl with Russia over the shooting down of a Russian Su-24 by Turkish Air Force F-16s. Skip to now, however, and Turkey is scheduled to receive the advanced S-400 anti-aircraft missile system. A system that is incompatible with NATO infrastructure.
The Turkish Defense Ministry has launched an investigation to discover what led to this debacle.