DIYARBAKIR-AMED, Turkey’s Kurdish region,— Kurdish PKK rebels claimed on Friday they had downed a military helicopter that crashed this week in Turkish Kurdistan, southeastern Turkey, killing 13 soldiers, a news agency reported.
“A Cougar type helicopter of the invader Turkish army … was shot down while it was on the move in the area of Senoba,” the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) said in a statement carried by the Firat news agency.
The PKK claim contradicted an army statement that the May 31 crash was a result of an accident according to preliminary findings and that an investigation was underway.
Turkey’s chief of staff, General Hulusi Akar, had travelled to the region on the same night to carry out an inspection on site. Several ministers had also visited the area.
The Turkish army is battling Kurdish militants in the southeast in a relentless campaign to eradicate the PKK.
The Kurdish rebels claimed that the helicopter had carried soldiers who “were coordinating the operation” in the Kato mountain in the southeast.
Since July 2015, Turkey initiated a controversial military campaign against the PKK in the country’s southeastern Kurdish region after Ankara ended a two-year ceasefire agreement. Since the beginning of the campaign, Ankara has imposed several round-the-clock curfews, preventing Kurdish civilians from fleeing regions where the military operations are being conducted.
In March 2017, the Turkish security forces accused by UN of committing serious abuses during operations against Kurdish militants in the nation’s southeast.
The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 79-million population. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed in the resulting conflict since then.
A large Kurdish community in Turkey and worldwide openly sympathise with PKK rebels and Abdullah Ocalan, who founded the PKK group in 1974, and has a high symbolic value for most Kurds in Turkey and worldwide according to observers.
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