Turkey helicopter crash kills 17


Seventeen Turkish soldiers were killed today when their helicopter crashed in southeastern Turkey due to bad weather conditions, the area's governor said.

The Sikorsky helicopter crashed in heavy fog on Herekol mountain, in the Pervari area of Siirt province, Siirt Governor Ahmet Aydin said.

The victims were members of special forces and there were no survivors, he said.

Authorities are investigating the cause.

The Turkish military has been carrying out operations on the mountain in recent months to flush out militants from outlawed separatist group the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who have hideouts there.

"Today … in the village of Bilgili around Siirt, we got 17 martyrs - officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers," Turkish president Abdullah Gul said in a statement.

Military officials reached the crash site and were taking the soldiers' bodies to the province's main city, Siirt.

Since summer there has been an upsurge in PKK attacks in southeast Turkey, notably in the Hakkari region.

Three teachers were kidnapped by PKK militants today near the Syrian border in Mardin province, security sources said.

Turkish jets and helicopters have pounded PKK positions along the border with Iraq and Iran for three days, killing 42 militants, Hakkari's governor said last night.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict between Turkey and the PKK, which launched its insurgency in 1984 with the aim of carving out a separate state in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey.

The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.