Seventeen Turkish soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed due to bad weather conditions today en route to a goverment operation against Kurdish rebels, officials said today, reported the Associated Press.
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Local officials said the accident was caused by the weather and was not believed tied to the country's neighboring rebel movement, according to The National Turk.
President Abdullah Gul said the 13 soldiers and four members of the military crew were flying "to help their friends," referring to stepped-up government efforts to oust militants from the southeastern region, said AP. He emphasized that the tragedy would not deter the government from their mission to end a decades-long conflict that has taken thousands of lives.
The Kurdish rebel movement known as PKK seeks independence but is considered a terrorist group by Turkey and many Western countries.
Turkish sentiment against the group can therefore be quite strong, as evidenced by the language employed by The National Turk in their report today on the crash:
"Turkey and its Western allies categorize the vermin as a terrorist group. AP news agency thinks the vermin are rebels because of unkown reasons ( money, relations with terrorists ?)"