A Turkish army helicopter crashed into rocks while attempting to land in the southeastern province of Siirt, killing 13 elite commandos and four crew members, according to provincial Governor Ahmet Aydin.
The crash happened in foggy weather near the town of Pervari, Aydin said today in a phone interview. The soldiers were chasing Kurdish militants in the area, he said.
The Turkish army relies heavily on helicopters to deploy troops in the southeast as it fights against autonomy-seeking militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK. The military killed 42 PKK militants over past three days near the country’s border with Iraq, Hurriyet reported earlier today, citing unidentified Turkish officials.
The air strikes by warplanes and helicopters against militants near town of Semdinli in Hakkari province followed the death of a soldier death in a clash with the PKK on Nov. 7, the Turkish newspaper reported.
The PKK, which use bases in northern Iraq to stage cross-border attacks, has been designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union. The conflict has left some 40,000 people dead since 1984.