Helicopter Crash Kills 12 Turkish Soldiers, 4 Afghans
A NATO helicopter crashed into a house on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Friday, killing 12 Turkish soldiers on board and four Afghan civilians on the ground, Turkish military and Afghan authorities announced. The crash came amid growing unease among NATO partner countries about the increasingly unpopular and costly war nearly 11 years into the conflict as most foreign combat troops are set to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
“Twelve of our military personnel on board the helicopter have been martyred,” the General Staff said in a statement in Ankara. A team had been sent to the scene to investigate, it said.
The helicopter, a Sikorksy, crashed during training. Nine of the military members were officers, two of them were non-commissioned officers, while one of them was a special sergeant, news agencies reported. Wreckage as well as corpses and body parts littered the site. Relief workers and Turkish soldiers covered bodies with red and purple blankets on the ground in front of a smoking hole in a two-storey house. Two women and two children were among those killed when the helicopter crashed into the house, an Afghan police officer said.
The officer said the cause of the crash appeared to be a technical fault. NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said earlier that the cause of the crash was still unknown but that there had been no reports of insurgent action in the area.
President Abdullah Gül released a message on Friday in which he said he was deeply shaken by the deaths of 12 Turkish soldiers in Kabul while offering his condolences to the families of the soldiers. “As a nation, our pain is great,” the president said, adding that Turkey will continue to support Afghanistan as part of its mission to work for the benefit of humanity. Gül also called Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel to offer his condolences over the tragedy in Kabul.
Speaking to reporters after Friday prayer in Ankara, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey has not yet received any clear information regarding the cause of the accident. The prime minister also offered his condolences to the families of the soldiers. Regarding the cause of the accident, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the cause was apparently a technical fault.
“Both the location and the way the crash happened gives the impression that it’s due to technical failure,” Davutoğlu told reporters in İstanbul.
“It’s a cause of great pain. I am sending my condolences once again to the families and the general staff.” Turkey’s mission in Afghanistan is limited to patrols, and its soldiers do not take part in combat operations. It has more than 1,800 soldiers serving in the country, most of them around the capital.