Lieutenant General among dead after an army helicopter crash in southeastern Turkey that left two others injured.
An army helicopter crashed in southeastern Turkey on Thursday, killing 11 soldiers and injuring two others, the defense ministry said.
The Cougar-type helicopter crashed near the village of Cekmece, near the town of Tatvan, in the predominantly Kurdish province of Bitlis. He was on his way to Tatvan from neighboring Bingol province when authorities lost contact with him at 2:25 p.m. (11:25 a.m. GMT), the ministry said.
Nine of the victims died at the crash site, while two died of their injuries in hospital, officials said.
Among the victims were Lieutenant-General Osman Erbas, the corps commander, Devlet Bahceli, head of Turkey’s main nationalist party, said on Twitter.
The Defense Ministry described the crash as accidental but did not specify.
Turkish media said Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and senior military officials were visiting the crash site.
The European Union and the United States immediately offered their condolences to the NATO ally.
“We share Turkey’s deep sadness for the loss of nine military personnel in Bitlis,” said EU Ambassador to Turkey Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, whose bloc will review relations with Ankara at a summit in Brussels later this month.
“Our hearts go out to the families of all those affected and we wish the injured a speedy recovery,” the US Embassy said in a tweet.
A Turkish diplomatic source said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg offered his condolences during a phone call with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and added that the alliance “stands in solidarity with the Turkey”.
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
The Cougar family of multipurpose helicopters was developed by France and is now produced by Airbus.
The accident occurred in an area where Turkish forces regularly carry out military operations against banned Kurdish militias.
In 2017, a military helicopter crashed in the southeast of Sirnak province, near Turkey’s border with Syria and Iraq, killing 13 soldiers.