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Purged Turkish colonel sent to Libya, killed in bombing, buried secretly: report

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A colonel from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) who was forced to retire from service as part of a government-led purge was recalled to serve in Libya, where he was killed in a bomb attack and buried away from the public eye, according to a journalist from the ultranationalist Yeniçağ newspaper.

Col. Okan Altınay was forced to retire after a failed coup in July 2016 following which the Turkish government launched a massive purge and removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their posts on the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

Altınay was recalled to duty due to the lack of a sufficient number of officers to serve in the Turkish mission in Libya.

Last month Turkey began sending troops to Libya in support of the internationally recognized government in Tripoli. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey was starting the deployment of troops to Libya and that it would use diplomatic and military means to ensure stability in its south.

Yeniçağ columnist Batuhan Çolak wrote the story of Altınay in a series of tweets. He said Altınay was forced to retire because he was a Kemalist officer, a term used for followers of the ideals of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

“Many of our invaluable officers have also been sent to Libya. One of them was Col. Okan Altınay. He was martyred in a bomb attack carried out by the [Khalifa] Haftar group on a Turkish military ship. His body was taken to Turkey and buried without an official funeral ceremony,” tweeted Çolak.

 Çolak’s quiet burial, apparently to avoid attracting public ire, in his hometown of Aydın sparked criticism from his family and colleagues, according to Çolak.

Erdoğan said in a statement on Saturday that “several soldiers” had been killed in Libya and was criticized for downplaying the lives of those soldiers.

Erdoğan and his government are accused of putting the lives of Turkish soldiers at risk by sending them to Libya without any Turkish interests at stake.

Following his tweets, Çolak said he received many threats from anonymous Twitter users and that attempts were made to hack his Twitter account.

On Sunday the Yeniçağ newspaper announced that the Twitter accounts of Çolak and another journalist from the daily, Murat Ağırel, as well as their e-mail addresses have been hacked.

Last week, presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın denied reports of an attack on a Turkish military ship deployed to Libya.

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