A Turkish military helicopter crashed in the southeast of the country on Thursday killing eleven soldiers including a senior military officer and injuring two others, state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) reported. According to officials, nine of the victims died at the crash site while two died due to severe injuries in the hospital.
The Turkish National Defense Ministry stated that the cougar-type helicopter took off from eastern province of Bingol and after 30 mins of losing contact, search operations began. The helicopter crashed near the village of Cekmece next to the town of Tatvan, the ministry said in a statement.
The incident occurred where Turkish forces regularly engage in military operations against various terror organisations, local reports said. However, the ministry described the incident as accidental and confirmed it was due to bad weather.
"Based on initial information and witnesses' statements, it is considered that the crash occurred due to the suddenly changing adverse weather conditions," Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was quoted by AA as saying at a military meeting in Elazig province early Friday.
Several dignitaries including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vice President Fuat Oktay offered condolences to families of the victims.
"As a result of the crash of a military helicopter on its way from Bingol to Tatvan in Bitlis, 11 of our children were martyred. I wish Allah's mercy upon our heroic martyrs and quick recovery to wounded," Erdogan tweeted.
"We share the deep sorrow of Turkey for the loss of nine military personnel in Bitlis," said the EU's Turkey ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, as the initial reports showed 9 deaths and 4 casualties.
Meanwhile, 11 Turkish soldiers were said to be not-seriously injured in an accident in southeastern Turkey on Thursday due to wet and slippery road surface, AA reported.
Another cougar-type military helicopter had crashed in 2017 near Turkey's border with Iraq, killing at least 13 Turkish soldiers.