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An unidentified helicopter crashed in the Chamanke district in Iraq’s northern province of Dohuk, in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) on the evening of 15 March, a security official told Kurdish media, resulting in the deaths of seven people.
The crash was confirmed in a statement by northern Iraq’s Kurdish-run counterterrorism service.
According to the official, the completely burned bodies of the seven individuals have been recovered.
The governor of Dohuk province, Ali Tatar, said on 16 March that the helicopter was carrying members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group. Tatar added that a second helicopter, also carrying PKK members, had been flying near the one that crashed and ended up fleeing to an unknown destination.
The crash is being referred to as ‘mysterious,’ as no party has claimed ownership of the helicopter. Following reports that the helicopter may have belonged to the Turkish military, Ankara’s Defense Ministry denied ownership and said that none of its aircraft were in the area at the time.
The US military and the Iraqi government have also denied ownership of the helicopter. Additionally, a PKK spokesperson has said that his organization does not possess any helicopters.
The crash reportedly took place in the vicinity of an oil company based in the area. An employee of the company, Haval Mohammed, told Kurdish media outlet Rudaw: “Two helicopters were flying around the area. One of them broke down and spun around twice before crashing and catching fire.”
A video submitted to the Kurdish outlet shows smoke and fire arising from the site of the crash, as well as what looks like a projectile shooting out from within the flames.
An unidentified helicopter crashes in Duhok's Chamanke, with several casualties reported.
🎥: Submitted pic.twitter.com/2xday5XzRM
— Rudaw English (@RudawEnglish) March 15, 2023
The helicopter has been identified as a Eurocopter AS350. As of yet, there is no information on what caused it to crash, but the incident is currently being investigated, according to Dohuk’s governor.
The PKK and Turkiye have been sworn foes for decades. Conceived as a political organization in Turkiye in the late 1970s, the group’s armed wing was formed not long after and has been engaged in guerilla warfare against Ankara since.
Outlawed in Turkiye, the PKK operates illegally southwest of the country, as well as in northern Iraq, where the group is regularly targeted by Ankara.
In July last year, Turkish artillery struck a tourist resort in Dohuk – where Wednesday’s crash occurred – killing nine civilians.