Photo: local Turkish officials detain a pair of men who confronted an NCO on Incirlik Air Base and attempted to put a bag over his head.
For the better part of the past year, Incirlik Air Base has been on lockdown. Officials have focused intensely on force protection as the base has undertaken a key role in operations against the Islamic State in neighboring Syria. Airmen stationed at Incirlik have been warned continually about imminent terrorism threats and had their liberties severely constrained as a series of terrorist incidents have unfolded across Turkey.
Earlier this month, perceived threats to the base grew dire enough that more than 700 family members were evacuated. Since that time, security has reportedly been ratcheted up even more. There are, according to Incirlik-based airmen, commonly periods of time during which no one is allowed outside.
Yet, amid this frenzied focus on security and anti-terrorism, the base reportedly opened its doors to the local community on April 16th for approximately twelve hours. It was during that time period that the incident captured in the video below occurred. Bear with the seemingly pedestrian first two-thirds — the last 20 seconds or so will crystallize why it’s worth watching.
According to Turkish media (the incident hasn’t shown up in any US media coverage and hasn’t been publicized by the Air Force), the Turkish man featured in the video (and the unseen videographer) are members of an ultra-right anti-American group known at the Turkish Youth Union (TGB). The clip was reportedly released by the radicals themselves.
While difficult to sort out in the video, it appears that the attempt to put a plastic bag over the pictured US servicemember’s head carried special symbolism for the TGB. The Instanbul-based Daily Sabah reports that the attack was preceded by the following remarks:
“You put sacks on the head of our soldiers in 2003. You are responsible for this and the terror events in our country. Bombs explode everyday, we receive the news of martyrs. You are responsible for this. You are not able to leave your air base, but we are here, entering your air base, and put sacks on your head.”
The remark seems to refer to an incident in Northern Iraq in 2003, during which US forces mistakenly raided a safehouse occupied by Turkish special forces, detaining them for more than 60 hours after putting bags over their heads.
Whatever motivated the incident, it’s deeply concerning. Sources tell me the NCO in the video is a member of the 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron who was simply walking across the base to his quarters after work when he was confronted by the men. They were permitted on base as part of the community open house, which struck many airmen as a bizarre and potentially disastrous occurrence in the context of acute threats to the base.
When airmen can’t walk home from work without being confronted and accosted by aggrieved locals allowed onto a base deemed unsafe for families, something is not quite right. Someone should explain what happened here, and what’s being done to prevent recurrence of a situation that could have turned out much worse.
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