12 Turk troops killed in Kabul
KABUL - Hürriyet Daily News
A Turkish helicopter crashes into a house on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing 12 Turkish soldiers on board and two Afghan girls on the ground. REUTERS photoTurkish military helicopter crashed into a house near the Afghan capital on March 16, killing 12 Turkish soldiers on board and two girls on the ground, Turkish and Afghan officials said. The mishap was by far the deadliest incident involving Turkish soldiers in Afghanistan, where they have a noncombat role.
“The cause of the accident will become clear after an inspection by expert teams,” the General Staff said in a statement on its website.
The Sikorsky helicopter, which plunged down at 10:25 a.m. local time, belonged to the Turkish Armed Forces and was serving under the Kabul regional command as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), it said.
In a written statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Turkey’s assistance to the Afghan people would continue and would therefore carry on the memories of the martyrs forever. “The significant and selfless work of the Turkish Armed Forces in Afghanistan is always appreciated by our people and state,” it said. This statement has been interpreted that the tragic incident would not end Turkey’s contribution to the international community’s effort to provide security and rebuild the war-torn country.
Two of the dead Turkish soldiers were identified as Air Maj. Şükür Bağdatlı and Cartographer Maj. Mithat Çolak. The dead include nine commissioned officers - including four majors and a lieutenant - as well as two noncommissioned officers and a sergeant, according to military sources, who noted that four of the dead were from Ankara. Their bodies are expected to be flown to Turkey today after a ceremony at ISAF. The crash in the Hassian Khail area of Kabul’s Bagrami district came amid growing unease among NATO partner countries about the Afghan war.
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. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, however, said a technical hitch appeared to have caused the crash and that the helicopter plummeted while attempting to make an emergency landing.
“The pilot made a very serious effort to escape [the residential area],” he said.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the chopper was one of two helicopters that had taken off from a location north of Kabul and added that five or six people were also killed on the ground. Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said the outcome of the investigation would be revealed to the public.
President Abdullah Gül phoned Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel to extend his condolences.
“Turkey will continue to support the brotherly Afghan people,” Gül said separately in a written message.
Erdoğan and main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, meanwhile, also issued messages of condolences.
The helicopter clipped one house and then crashed into another, said Sayed Qayum, an Afghan resident who witnessed the aircraft go down. The crash blew several large holes in the three-story brick house that was hit. Parts of the building were scorched black by fire, and wreckage of the helicopter was scattered outside.
The Afghan Interior Ministry said the two people who were confirmed killed on the ground were young girls while a woman and another child were wounded, the Associated Press reported.
The crash was the deadliest in Afghanistan for NATO forces since August, when 30 American troops died when a Chinook helicopter was apparently shot down in Wardak province in the center of the country.
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. Unlike other NATO countries, public opinion in Turkey has been less critical about having troops in Afghanistan due to their non-combat role. Likewise, there is much less resentment among Afghans over the Turkish presence due to the countries’ shared religion and the historical links between them.
In 2009, two Turkish soldiers, one of them a colonel, were killed in a traffic accident in northern Afghanistan.