Unidentified gunmen among civilians fired at General Staff during July 2016 events in Turkey

Staff Sergeant Ibrahim Colkesen

Nordic Monitor


A staff sergeant who was deployed on an urgent mission to counter a supposed terrorist attack on Turkish General Staff headquarters in July 2016 testified that shots were fired from among a civilian crowd, leading him to believe that the group posed an imminent terrorist threat to the building.

“Some 50 people who had gathered across the street were throwing stones and hurling all kinds of insults, as if they wanted to provoke the soldiers. … There had recently been a series of bombings and suicide bomber attacks. … The last time such an attack took place was against General Staff service busses [that were transporting military officers in Ankara on February 17, 2016]. … During that night in July 2016, I saw shots fired from among the civilians, leading me to believe that this was a terrorist attack,” said Staff Sgt. İbrahim Çölkesen, who was later arrested for his alleged role in a failed coup on July 15, 2016.

Çölkesen was a member of an elite team from the Special Forces Command and had worked many secret assignments including a rescue operation of Turkish Consulate employees in the Iraqi city Mosul who were being held hostage by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2015. As mission orders often came in at the last minute, he never questioned it when Col. Murat Korkmaz summoned him and few others to inform them about a drill in what the military terms an “unconventional operation” (Konvensiyonel Olmayan Harekat, or KOH) for protection and security. When they met at the rendezvous point later at night, they were told that the team would be deployed to safeguard General Staff headquarters against a terrorist threat.

At around 10 or 10:30 p.m., he joined in his team of some 20 people from various units of the Special Forces. Nothing was out of the ordinary as similar KOH missions had been carried out in the past, with members selected from different units depending on mission requirements. Col. Korkmaz told the team that there was a possibility of a terrorist attack on General Staff headquarters and they would be deployed there to provide protection. When they arrived at the intersection near the building, they came under fire and were stopped by police units. Two members of the team were wounded.

Sgt. Çölkesen asked a policeman who pointed a gun at him what was happening, to which the officer replied that he didn’t know and that he was simply ordered to go there. Col. Korkmaz spoke to the police chief on the ground and the team was let go to continue its mission at the General Staff. They took security measures around the perimeter of the headquarters, while tanks and armored vehicles arrived to beef up the security. In the meantime, a civilian group of some 50 people gathered across the street from the headquarters and started shouting, throwing stones and firing guns.


Statement of Staff Sgt. İbrahim Çölkesen:



The sergeant had no idea that the chaotic events would later be described by the government as an attempted coup and that he would be detained, arrested and thrown into prison. He thought he was doing what he was supposed to do under orders that did not seem out of the ordinary. At one point he and his team were ordered to secure the perimeter of the yard for Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, who was to arrive in a helicopter. In the morning Col. Korkmaz gathered his men and told them that they had been misled and framed.

The police took them into custody, and Çölkesen and the others had to endure torture and abuse at the hands of the officers. “Due to severe beatings, I collapsed, the plastic handcuffs were torn from my wrists and I passed out. In the detention facility, I was subjected to systematic torture and all kinds of insults and slurs. We were deprived of food for 36 hours and no water was given for 24 hours. My statement was taken under these circumstances,” he later said.


A group chanting religious slogans under the coordination of the police in Ankara on the night of July 15.


In court testimony, Çölkesen said he had never shot at any civilian, did not use his gun despite the chaotic turn of events and underlined that it was the police units that let them through the checkpoint to provide security for the General Staff building. He also alleged that July 15 was a plot to frame him and many others in the military.

Many believe the coup attempt was actually a false flag orchestrated by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his intelligence and military chiefs to set up the opposition including government critic the Gülen movement for mass persecution.

A scheduled parachuting exercise in the Special Forces planned for July 15 was postponed to July 18, and the graduation ceremony for specialty training in the Special Forces Command, scheduled for July 15 as well, was pushed to the earlier date of July 14. Çölkesen said it was as if someone wanted to clear the Special Forces schedule for July 15, this facilitating their heavy involvement in the July 15 events.

It appears the false flag planners wanted to create an atmosphere of chaos on the night of July 15 by ensuring that some operatives mingling with the civilians acted in a way so as to to provoke both civilians and the military at the headquarters. If the soldiers lost control and used their weapons, an environment of total conflict could develop, and many citizens could die in front of the building.

It has been widely reported that SADAT, paramilitary units operating under retired Col. Adnan Tanrıverdi, who later became chief military advisor to President Erdoğan; operatives of the Turkish intelligence agency MIT; and some violent religious groups had organized and killed people during the events of July 15. Turkish authorities did not investigate any of the killings despite the fact that autopsy reports and ballistic examinations showed that many were killed by bullets not used by the Turkish military.

Çölkesen was sentenced to life in prison on June 20, 2019, three years after the incidents, on what appear to be dubious charges.

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