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The Kizildere incident: three GCHQ staff killed by the TPLA

Mahir Cayan

Mahir Cayan (above), a senior member of the TPLA, a violent revolutionary group, escaped from prison in Turkey in October 1971. In March 1972, in an attempt to stop the impending execution of his comrades he captured eight GCHQ technicians who were working at black (unavowed) sigint sites on Turkey's northeast coast near Unye. The three of these GCHQ staff were selected and taken to the inland village of Kizildere. After a search, Turkish special forces surrounded the Mayor's house at Kizildere where they were being held. After lengthy negotiations conducted personally by the Interior Minister, shooting broke out and there was a prolonged exchange of fire, which included the use of mortars. Sadly the three GCHQ staff - Charles Turner, Gordon Banner and John Law - were killed by the kidnappers during the fire-fight. Only one of the twelve kidnappers survived. The GCHQ staff in Turkey had been working under the cover of civilian contractors to the MoD and so although the incident made the front pages of major British newpapers in March 1972, their identities as GCHQ staff were not revealed until the incident was discussed in the House of Commons in 1984.



Turkish dramatisation of the Kizildere incident (Video clip)