ANKARA: An army helicopter crashed in southeast Turkey on Thursday, killing 11 military personnel and injuring two others, the defence ministry said.
Nine of the victims died at the crash site, while two died of their injuries in hospital, officials said.
The victims included Lt. Gen. Osman Erbas, an army corps commander, said Devlet Bahceli, the leader of Turkey’s main nationalist party, on Twitter. Pro-government Daily Sabah also reported that Erbas was killed.
The Cougar type helicopter crashed near the village of Cekmece, close to the town of Tatvan, in the predominantly Kurdish-populated Bitlis province. It was on its way to Tatvan from the nearby province of Bingol when authorities lost contact with it at 2:25 pm, the ministry said.
Turkish media reports said Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, and senior military figures travelled to the site of the crash.
The ministry described the crash as an accident, but it wasn’t immediately known what caused it. HaberTurk television said the chopper is believed to have crashed in adverse weather conditions, including snow and fog.
The location of the crash is in an area where Turkish troops have been combating militants of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984. The PKK is considered to be a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.
PKK militants attacked a Turkish Cougar helicopter in northern Iraq in 1997, killing 11 Turkish soldiers.