Turkish Military Helicopter Crashes In Afghanistan, Killing 16
The accident happened at around 10:25 a.m. local time on Friday when a Turkish Sikorsky-type helicopter, flying for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), went down and clipped a house before crashing into another in the Bagrami district of Kabul province.
The Turkish military said twelve of its service members were killed in the accident, but gave no other details about their identities. The office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai said two young girls inside the house were killed while a third child was injured, and ISAF said two other civilians were also killed.
It was not immediately known what caused the crash, but both the Turkish military and ISAF said it appeared to be an accident. “Initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash,” an ISAF spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the cause is under investigation.
“My deepest sympathies go out to the families of these ISAF service members and the Afghan civilians who died as a result of this unfortunate incident,” ISAF Commander General John R. Allen said in a statement. “Turkey has been a steadfast ally and stalwart member of the NATO ISAF coalition from the beginning.”
Turkish President Abdullah Gül said he was saddened by the news and conveyed his condolences to the families of both the Turkish soldiers and the Afghan civilians. He also spoke by telephone with Karzai who thanked the Turkish government for their assistance in Afghanistan.
In mid-January, six U.S. Marines were killed when a NATO helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan. Friday’s crash is the deadliest helicopter accident in Afghanistan since August 2011 when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed in Wardak province, killing 30 U.S. troops, 7 Afghan troops and an Afghan interpreter.
There are currently more than 130,000 ISAF troops in Afghanistan, including some 1,845 Turkish troops whose duties are limited to patrols because the Turkish government refused to take a combat role against Islamist insurgents. U.S. President Barack Obama previously ordered a drawdown of 23,000 U.S. troops later this year, and foreign combat troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.