TEK and “freeing” the Hungarian hostages in Syria

At the Tranzit Fesztivál in Kőszeg Brigadier-General János Hajdú, head of the new Anti-Terror Unit or TEK, received a telephone call in the middle of a round table discussion. He got the news that the three Hungarians who had been taken hostage by anti-government forces in Syria had just been released. The youngsters who were present applauded mightily at this latest triumph of TEK.

But let’s start at the beginning. On August 13 in Damascus, sometime between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m., armed men stopped a car in which three Hungarians and three Syrians were traveling. The Hungarians were about forty years old; they were all once policemen who took early retirement. Who were these men and what on earth were they were doing in Syria?

Although the three already arrived in Hungary yesterday, we still don’t know much about either the men or the purpose of their stay in Damascus. On August 22 HVG managed to get some information about them. Apparently all three were involved with dog training and worked for an outfit called Brave Dog Bt. The word was that they were invited to train dogs in Syria. The reporters of HVG, however, didn’t quite believe this dog story and wondered whether perhaps the three men were actually working for the Syrian government.

Foreign Minister János Martonyi also had no clue what the former policemen were doing in Damascus, or at least he vigorously denied in an interview with Inforádió that the Hungarian government had anything to do with whatever the captured Hungarians were doing in Syria. He added, however, that “if that were the case the Hungarian government must thank the opposition forces for releasing the captives.” An unusual response.

Now to the details of the release of the captives. Since August 25 the story of TEK’s involvement in the release of the three Hungarians and three Syrians has gone through several transformations. First, we heard from János Hajdú, who is prone to self-aggrandizement, that “we arrived at the end of a two-week-long intensive secret service operation executed with clock-like precision that resulted in our freeing the captives. There was no ransom and the captives have been freed uninjured.” He added that the freed men will be “under TEK’s control [fennhatóság].” Hajdú claimed that from the very beginning they knew exactly who the kidnappers were, and he gave the impression that TEK operatives had been in constant touch with the rebels on the spot. However, in the same interview, talking about two other Hungarians taken captive in Syria in April, he had to admit that it is almost impossible to get information about the whereabouts of the two captives because of the chaotic circumstances in Syria. If this is the case, it is truly remarkable that within days TEK operatives managed to contact the particular rebel group that allegedly held the Hungarians hostage.

Heat or no heat, János Hajdú must look the part. Népszabadság, Zsolt Reviczky

A day later the tone changed a bit. The “secret service operation” phrase was left out from  Hajdú’s many interviews about this latest success of TEK. The word “control” was also changed to “supervision” (felügyelet).  Then more details emerged that made TEK’s exploits in Damascus less glamorous. By yesterday it became clear that no weapons were involved in the hostages’ release. Soon more details emerged from an interview with Zsolt Bodnár, the number two man at TEK. The group that captured the men let them go on August 23 and the captured men found shelter with government forces. Bodnár read a letter from the rebels that included the following: “On August 13 during an operation against the resisting military units we captured a special unit that belonged to the regime. Later it turned out that three experts among them were Hungarian citizens.” From this I must conclude that the Hungarians were actually working for the Syrian government, and I’m surprised that the Hungarian media somehow missed this crucial sentence.

The release of the captured Hungarians became even more interesting when Blikk learned that the rebels simply handed the Hungarians the keys to their cells while they themselves left the area. So the most likely explanation for their release is that government forces were getting close to this particular anti-government group’s headquarters which they had to abandon. Holding hostages under these circumstances didn’t seem feasible.

In brief, János Hajdú was greatly exaggerating if not worse when he boasted about the “secret service operation” that was performed with such precision. It also eventually became known that TEK received information about the particular rebel group from the Foreign Ministry and other diplomatic sources.

Yesterday Ágnes Vadai (DK), former undersecretary of the Ministry of Defense and until recently chairman of the Committee on National Security, expressed her misgivings about Hajdú’s constant media interviews. She also pointed out that parading the former hostages in a press conference before debriefing is really unheard of. It is simply not professional behavior. Jenő Veress of Népszava also criticized Hajdú for playing politics when the military and the police are supposed to be politically neutral. László Seres of HVG found the story of the dog trainers in Syria highly unlikely.

It seems that it was not only Jenő Veress, a reporter for a social democratic paper, who found Hajdú’s uniformed presence at the pro-Fidesz Tranzit Fesztivál unbecoming a member of the police force. Jobbik was also outraged. Ádám Mirkóczki (Jobbik), a member of the parliamentary Committee on National Security, demanded an extraordinary meeting of the committee to hear what Interior Minister Sándor Pintér and János Hajdú had to say about the latter’s presence in Kőszeg. Mirkóczki wants to know whether Hajdú had Pintér’s permission “to attend a political meeting in uniform and to express his political views there.” Hajdú, in addition to boasting about the events in Damascus, also called Jobbik “a problem that can be handled.” The Jobbik politician called Hajdú’s speech at the festival “the Őszöd speech of Viktor Orbán’s personal bodyguard.” Fidesz’s answer via Zsolt Csampa, a member of parliament, was weak. Why criticize such a fantastic outfit? Not quite enough. Jobbik has a point, just as Jenő Veress does.

Hajdú works hard to justify the existence of his thousand-man force. But even as he spins a Háry János-like tale about his operatives’ Damascus derring-do (not quite anti-terror but at least with a Middle East component) he reinforces the commonly held notion that he is, in fact, the head of the prime minister’s security force/private army.

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16 comments

  1. Dr Balogh: “So the most likely explanation for their release is that government forces were getting close to this particular anti-government group’s headquarters which they had to abandon. Holding hostages under these circumstances didn’t seem feasible.”

    What is your basis for this statement? Info from the Syrian govt. forces?
    You private satellite? Info from rebel sources?

  2. Louis Kovach :
    Dr Balogh: “So the most likely explanation for their release is that government forces were getting close to this particular anti-government group’s headquarters which they had to abandon. Holding hostages under these circumstances didn’t seem feasible.”
    What is your basis for this statement? Info from the Syrian govt. forces?
    You private satellite? Info from rebel sources?

    The answer is very simple: some of us use our heads for thinking. I understand that this is a very hard concept for you to comprehend.

  3. Yesterday Hajdu was a guest at Olga Kálmán Egyenes Beszéd, where he condemned openly extreme right wing anti-Roma racism.
    Now we should watch if that nice declaration will be followed by actions.

  4. orban reminds me of kadar.
    this is the curse hungarians must face.
    all people must end their twisted acceptance of twited hungarian logic.
    people must come out from their cage of internalized pain.
    all have to consult their internal freud.
    why can they not embrace the classical moral, by dumping the advice of their corrupt hungarian political and religious leadership?

  5. London Calling!

    If Orban’s government is assisting Bashir Al Assad to massacre his own people – then Hungary will be a pariah of the EU.

    Your analysis Eva suggests he might be.

    In England our foreign minister has offered non-arms assistance to the Free Syrian Army because Russia and China refuse to allow the International community to stop Assad’s killing machine.

    Hungary might well – again – be aligning itself with history’s losers.

    There will be a terrible day of reckoning when Bashar Al Assad is finally stopped. He will be summarily murdered like Ceaucesu.

    And the international community will come down hard on Assad’s little helpers.

    Russia is protecting its arms maket – and if Hungary is assisting them too – there will be a price to pay.

    Regards

    Charlie

  6. CharlieH :
    London Calling!
    If Orban’s government is assisting Bashir Al Assad to massacre his own people – then Hungary will be a pariah of the EU.
    Your analysis Eva suggests he might be.
    In England our foreign minister has offered non-arms assistance to the Free Syrian Army because Russia and China refuse to allow the International community to stop Assad’s killing machine.
    Hungary might well – again – be aligning itself with history’s losers.
    There will be a terrible day of reckoning when Bashar Al Assad is finally stopped. He will be summarily murdered like Ceaucesu.
    And the international community will come down hard on Assad’s little helpers.
    Russia is protecting its arms maket – and if Hungary is assisting them too – there will be a price to pay.
    Regards
    Charlie

    Hungary is Russia’s proxy in more ways than one…

    What we need is a wilileaks exposure on how much
    fidesz leadership has locked away in Cyprus….

  7. Mutt: “What statement, Kovach? Do you what the words “most likely” mean?”

    You are correct, it is not a statement, it is a hypothesis built on another hypothesis.

    Now, as it is known, the Syrian govt is basically Alewite and it is supported by Shia Iran, its opponents are mostly Sunni (& AlQuida) some Shia and some Druze etc. The Alewites are a small minority compared to the rest of folks. There is fighting between the govt forces and the militias and among themselves by the various militias.

    There is no information available (or published) who captured the Hungarians (and their escorts) or why there were released.

    In the absence of such informtion, the guessing game is irrelevant. If it would be known who captured and obviously released them, some interesting conclusions could be made, but…..

  8. Louis Kovach :
    Mutt: “What statement, Kovach? Do you what the words “most likely” mean?”
    You are correct, it is not a statement, it is a hypothesis built on another hypothesis.
    Now, as it is known, the Syrian govt is basically Alewite and it is supported by Shia Iran, its opponents are mostly Sunni (& AlQuida) some Shia and some Druze etc. The Alewites are a small minority compared to the rest of folks. There is fighting between the govt forces and the militias and among themselves by the various militias.
    There is no information available (or published) who captured the Hungarians (and their escorts) or why there were released.
    In the absence of such informtion, the guessing game is irrelevant. If it would be known who captured and obviously released them, some interesting conclusions could be made, but…..

    The question arises: what are three Hungarians ‘in their right mind’ doing in the Syrian
    heartland? Of course the question is a non-starter as we know most Hungarians presently don’t have anything recognizably ‘reasonable’ in their thinking…

    But instead of watching that TEK turkey strutting about, hasn’t anybody bothered to ask the relevant question? After all, the most Fool’s Gold is to be found in Budapest: the streets
    are littered with it. Why else would 400,000 country bumpkins show up there?

  9. gdfxx :

    Louis Kovach :
    Dr Balogh: “So the most likely explanation for their release is that government forces were getting close to this particular anti-government group’s headquarters which they had to abandon. Holding hostages under these circumstances didn’t seem feasible.”
    What is your basis for this statement? Info from the Syrian govt. forces?
    You private satellite? Info from rebel sources?

    The answer is very simple: some of us use our heads for thinking. I understand that this is a very hard concept for you to comprehend.

    We do have actually some information about the background. Blikk reported that in the part of Damascus where the captives were held there had been heavy fighting for two days before the hostages were let loose. HVG recorded Zsolt Bodnár’s information that it was the Damascus branch of the Syrian Free Army that captured them.

  10. Quadda… I mean Petőfi: “as we know most Hungarians presently don’t have anything recognizably ‘reasonable’ in their thinking… ”

    Well, you certainly don’t. Many Hungarians are working e.g. in humanitarian services that are present in Syria, I know Hungarians who have family and friends there in some ways, and I can think of plenty of other legitimate reasons for being there.

    Louis: I’m afraid Eva’s guessing is indeed right most likely. These guys luckily got away and Hajdu wanted to take some of the spotlight for it. Of course it is possible that he was shooting Expendables 3 in a nearby location and strangled the enemy with his bare hands upon hearing the news, but that’s just less likely.

  11. Jano :

    Louis: I’m afraid Eva’s guessing is indeed right most likely. These guys luckily got away and Hajdu wanted to take some of the spotlight for it. Of course it is possible that he was shooting Expendables 3 in a nearby location and strangled the enemy with his bare hands upon hearing the news, but that’s just less likely.

    There are other pieces of information I left out from yesterday’s comment. (1) In fact, the fighting was so heavy in the area that although the Hungarians received the key to the cellar they were kept in for a whole day they couldn’t leave the premises. (2) During the press conference Hajdú whispered into the ears of one of the former captives saying: “Don’t say anything then they cannot carp at everything you say.” And what the Hungarian media found interesting was Hajdú’s use of the familiar “te” with them. As if they had known each other from earlier times. Of course, it is possible that these three were TEK’s men in Syria who perhaps tried to get information about the other two hostages missing since April.This theory may be supported by Hajdú’s ready answer right after the announcement on August 25th to the question about what these people were doing in Syria. He quickly answered: “what they know best–training dogs.”

  12. London Calling!

    So TEK are proving to be ‘super heroes’ in manoeuvres!

    “….we arrived at the end of a two-week-long intensive secret service operation executed with clock-like precision that resulted in our freeing the captives. …..

    Wow! Smacks of our SAS.

    I must say that the ‘béret-ed’ Hajdú doesn’t quite cut the figure of a fighting fit soldier. Surely at his rank he would not be involved in day-to-day manoeuvres?

    I am suspicious of men who willingly wear ‘fatigues’ and like playing soldiers – like the ‘Hungarian Guard’ who look so menacing with their paunches and out-of-step marching. Okay – comical!

    Unfortunately the Hungarian Defence Force in Afghanistan are not such super heroes. It seems they may be frightened of the dark.

    New Zealand has accused them of refusing to patrol at night time and they have lost two or their men:

    “After the deaths of two New Zealand soldiers earlier this month, Prime Minister John Key suggested that insurgent problems were growing in the border between the provinces because the Hungarian refused to patrol at night……..”

    It is to Hungary’s credit that they have taken on Afghanistan duties – mostly young people too. But they must do it with conviction – and not just ‘claim’ the honour.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10828701

    Regards

    Charlie

  13. Jano :
    Quadda… I mean Petőfi: “as we know most Hungarians presently don’t have anything recognizably ‘reasonable’ in their thinking… ”
    Well, you certainly don’t. Many Hungarians are working e.g. in humanitarian services that are present in Syria, I know Hungarians who have family and friends there in some ways, and I can think of plenty of other legitimate reasons for being there.
    Louis: I’m afraid Eva’s guessing is indeed right most likely. These guys luckily got away and Hajdu wanted to take some of the spotlight for it. Of course it is possible that he was shooting Expendables 3 in a nearby location and strangled the enemy with his bare hands upon hearing the news, but that’s just less likely.

    Yes, Jano, even the hinterland of a war-torn Syria is preferable
    to a Hungary chock-full with mentally deluded citizenry!

Comments are closed.