A senior officer who discovered the funneling of illicit Qatari funding for jihadists in Syria through Turkey was executed under orders from a general-turned-war profiteer who was identified as working with Turkish intelligence to deepen the conflict in Syria.
The bombshell revelation was made by Col. Fırat Alakuş, who worked in the Special Forces Command’s (Özel Kuvvetler Komutanlığı, or ÖKK) intelligence section, was made at a court hearing whose transcript was obtained by Nordic Monitor.
Testifying under oath at the Ankara 17th High Criminal Court in the Turkish capital on March 20, 2019, Alakuş revealed that Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakallı, in charge of the ÖKK at the time, ordered the assassination of Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi because Terzi discovered that Aksakallı was working secretly with MIT in running illegal and clandestine operations in Syria for personal gain while dragging Turkey deeper into the Syrian civil war.
“[Terzi] knew how much of the funding delivered [to Turkey] by Qatar for the purpose of purchasing weapons and ammunition for the opposition was actually used for that and how much of it was actually used by public officials, how much was embezzled,” Col. Alakuş said. He further noted that the Qatari case was only one example of how funds were misdirected and that there were other countries whose funds were also misappropriated after their transfer to Turkey.
He added that Terzi knew all the dirty dealings of Turkish intelligence and about a gang in the military led by Aksakallı that was outside the chain of command and lacking authorization from the top brass at the General Staff. He maintained that this was the backstory and the actual reason why Aksakallı gave multiple orders for the execution of Terzi, who was summoned to Ankara from a border province on the pretext of providing security at headquarters against a terrorist threat in the Turkish capital.
Alakuş, who was in a position to have knowledge of secret dealings as head of the ÖKK intelligence unit, made other claims as well.
“[Terzi] was aware of who in the government was involved in an oil-smuggling operation from Syria, how the profits were shared and what activities they were involved in,” the colonel said, adding that Brig. Gen. Terzi was also aware of the activities of some government officials who brought senior leaders of armed radical and jihadist groups for medical treatment to Turkey under the guise of moderate Free Syrian Army troops and how much money they received in bribes for services rendered, a breach of Turkish law.
Alakuş is a veteran officer who served as head of the intelligence and counterintelligence bureau of the Special Forces Command between 2014 and 2016. He was assigned to work on a team that was set up against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq from December 2015 and served six months there. On June 8 he was appointed commander of the 3rd Contingent within the 2nd Special Forces Brigade in Ankara. Among his responsibilities were protecting the top brass, organizing a rapid response to immediate and emerging terror threats, and deploying snipers and troops for special missions.
According to Col. Alakuş’s testimony, Terzi was assigned to work on the Syria file by the General Staff, and he knew all the details of the operations the Turkish government had been conducting across the border. He was in charge of a military base code named ÖKİ-2, located in Turkey’s southeastern border province of Kilis. The operations in Iraq were run from another base, ÖKİ-1, under the commander of Halil Soysal at the time. The base is situated in the district of Silopi in Turkey’s southeastern Şırnak province, which has a border with both Syria and Iraq.
Part of Terzi’s job was to coordinate actions with MIT, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s confidant Hakan Fidan. He worked closely with the Pentagon on a train and equip program for Syrian opposition fighters. MIT recruited and enlisted fighters for the program, and training was provided by the Turkish military. After noticing that MIT had been trying to pass off radical militants as moderates, he raised an objection and protested the deception, making himself a target of MIT and his boss Aksakallı.
“Now, Semih Terzi was targeted because of his intimate knowledge of affairs relating to Syria, Your Honor. What is this information? If you want, I can expand on it, some of which is critical,” Alakuş explained during a hearing. He went on to say that Terzi knew how much arms and ammunition were provided to various terrorist groups in Syria under the pretext of assisting the Free Syrian Army. “[Terzi] was aware of which pubic officials were assisting in arms smuggling to Syria and for what purpose,” he stated.
“[Terzi’s murder] had to do with a trap devised by Zekai Aksakallı, who did not want such facts to come out into the open,” Alakuş testified.
According to Alakuş, Terzi also knew a lot about what was going on in Iraq. He said the brigadier general had intimate knowledge of hostage negotiations with ISIS that were conducted by MIT in order to free Turkish hostages taken when ISIS occupied the Turkish Consulate in Mosul. He said some of the money given to ISIS by Turkey was actually pocketed by a Turkish official who used the embezzled funds to purchase some two dozen apartments in Ankara. He did not name the official in his testimony.
“Semih Terzi knew very well how the oil taken from ISIS [in Syria] was rerouted [to Turkey] through Iraq’s [Kurdistan] Regional Government with the help of a prominent local politician [in Kurdistan] and with the cooperation of [Turkish] public officials and using the capabilities of a [Turkish] government agency and how much commission was taken,” Alakuş explained. “This is why he was the target, Your Honor,” Alakuş added.
During the hearing Alakuş revealed an illegal arms purchase from Iraq and how funds were wasted in the transaction. He said Terzi protested in writing the purchase of $16 million worth of arms and ammunition from Iraq by the Special Forces Command in the spring of 2016. Terzi wrote that it was a violation of Turkish law and complained about the transaction, which was secretly authorized by Aksakallı. What is more, the bulk of the ammunition procured from a supplier in Iraq was not suitable for the needs of the Free Syrian Army, which was using different calibre guns at the time. “The funds were embezzled,” Alakuş alleged, stressing that Terzi knew how secret discretionary funds at the disposal of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were wasted in Iraq and Syria.
During a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, Terzi was invited to Ankara by Aksakallı despite a flight ban imposed by the General Staff, and Terzi’s flight was allowed to take off from Silopi with special permission. In the meantime Aksakallı ordered a noncommissioned officer named Ömer Halisdemir, an aide to the lieutenant general, to kill Terzi when he arrived at Special Forces Command headquarters. Halisdemir shot and wounded Terzi as he was about to enter to the headquarters. Terzi was taken to the Gülhane Military Medical Academy (GATA) but did not survive the gunshot wounds.
Alakuş testified that he also received an order from Lt. Gen. Aksakallı on the night of July 15, 2016 to get ready for a terrorist attack and did not know a coup attempt was unfolding. “My job was to give additional support to the office of the chief of general staff as a measure against a possible terrorist attack based on intelligence. I personally received the assignment from Special Forces Commander Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakallı. I was told to get the details of the mission from Col. Ümit Bak,” Alakuş told the court.
“I carried out my responsibility within the chain of command to supply security to the office of the chief of general staff. I believe that my team and I were made to fall into a trap,” added Alakuş, who claimed that Aksakallı ordered his execution as well. But he was spared thanks to the common sense approach adopted by special forces troops already deployed at the General Staff. CCTV video footage from both inside the headquarters and outside verified that Alakuş and his team were protecting Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar
On June 20, 2019 Alakuş was convicted and sentenced to aggravated life on coup plotting charges based on dubious evidence. Aksakallı, who gave a direct order to Alakuş to go to the General Staff, was not even named as a suspect in the case because he played a role in executing the false flag coup bid in cooperation with the Turkish intelligence agency. He 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.