Turks puzzled by terrorist attacks on Army

Turkey's escalating political violence has chosen a new target: the Army. Turkish military and political leaders are deeply concerned about the development. Security analyst here see it as a new and dangerous phase in the current wave of political violence.

They are worried that continued attacks on soldiers and officers may force the military to take harsh repressive action.

The Turks traditionally have held their armed forces in high esteem. Brought up in the spirit of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's revolution, Turkish military commanders have been staunch supporters of democracy and reforms.

In effect, the Turkish Army has been regarded as a guardian of these principles, standing above political parties and playing a constructive behind-the-scenes role for political reconciliation and national unity.

Thus, in the past, few Turks have dared to criticize the Army. Some contend that the respect and love shown to the armed forces has been overplayed to the point where criticism has been virtually taboo.

This is why recent attacks on soldiers and officers in various parts of the country have caused nationwide indignation and anger. All political parties (which seldom agree on any topic) have joined military leaders in emphatically condemning such acts.

The chief of staff, Gen. Kenan Evren, expressed grief about the murder of a young lieutenant by an unidentified terrorist in the southern town of Diyarbakir.

"The handful of traitors who killed Lt. Omer Koc must know that the thousands of Omer Kocs in our armed forces will continue their dignified duty and settle the account with them when the time comes," he said.

Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel promised more effective measures to combat terrorism. Opposition leader Bulent Ecevit stressed that those who attack the armed forces "must know that they cannot intimidate them and destroy our democracy."

The recent attacks against Army officers and soldiers are conducted with hit-and-run tactics. The assailants avoid armed clashes. None has been captured so far.

The attacks nonetheless are being attributed to leftist terrorists. It is also assumed that Kurdish militants within the leftist underground organizations are playing a prominent role.

Marxist publications recently launched a strong campaign against the armed forces, attacking them for cooperating with the government to establish a so-called fascists state in turkey.

Although some senior military officers have privately expressed dismay at the campaign conducted by these ideological publications, they have refrained so far from taking any action that would damage freedom of the press -- or give the militants justification for balming the military for destroying basic liberties.

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