The helicopter crash took place on Thursday in southeastern Turkey, killing ten men. The Ministry of Defense, in a statement, announced that it was an accident. “Nine heroic soldiers were martyred and four were injured in this accident,” said the ministry, adding that it had occurred in the Bitlis region. He then said that a tenth soldier had died after being taken to hospital.
According to a deputy of the ruling AKP party, Tolga Agar, General Osman Erbas, who commands the Eighth Army, is among the dead. According to the Defense Ministry, the device, a Cougar manufactured by Airbus, took off from the town of Bingöl for Tatvan shortly before 12:00 p.m. (Swiss time), then disappeared from radar half an hour later.
The authorities managed to locate the scene of the tragedy after deploying drones, a reconnaissance plane and another helicopter.
No reasons given
The reasons for the accident were not immediately specified, but according to images broadcast by Turkish television channels, the region where it occurred was bathed in thick fog. “Our pain is great,” reacted Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The United States Embassy in Ankara shared its “sincere condolences” on Twitter. “Our hearts go out to the families of the victims. We wish the injured a speedy recovery, ”she added.
The United States Embassy offers its sincere condolences to the Turkish soldiers killed and injured in the tragic helicopter crash in #Bitlis. Our hearts go out to the families of all those affected and we wish the injured a speedy recovery. @tcsavunma
– U.S. Embassy in Turkey (@USEmbassyTurkey) March 4, 2021
“We share Turkey’s deep sadness,” European Union Ambassador to Turkey Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut said in a statement.
According to a Turkish diplomatic source, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg offered his condolences to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, and assured him of the Alliance’s “solidarity” with Turkey.
On site in the evening
Turkish defense and interior ministers were due to visit the crash site in the evening, according to Turkish media. The Turkish army regularly carries out operations in south-eastern Turkey against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group described as “terrorist” by Ankara and its Western allies.
In 2017, a military helicopter, also of the Cougar type, crashed in the province of Sirnak, bordering Syria and Iraq, killing 13 people.