A Turkish Sikorsky helicopter has been downed during operations in Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement on Sunday, after Kurdish guerrillas said they shot down several helicopters.
The Defence Ministry said a helicopter went down due to technical difficulties at 23:45 on Sunday while on a supply run for Turkey’s “Claw-Lock” operation against Kurdish forces, in areas of Kurdistan Region of Iraq close to the Turkish border.
Seven of the eight personnel on board were rescued, and search operations continue for the eighth, the Ministry said.
But the People’s Defence Forces (HPG) said the helicopter crashed after being struck by guerrillas, adding that two more helicopters had been shot down while trying to land troops in the area during a period of heavy fighting in the Zap region of Duhok governorate.
“HPG fighters shot down the helicopter in the Amadiya region at around 23:50 on Sunday evening,” the ANF news agency said, adding that HPG’s press office was expected to announce further details on Monday.
Kurdish guerrillas say they shot down a total of three helicopters over the weekend, two helicopters in Zap followed by a third in the region on Sunday.
“During the night, there were helicopter movements again in the region. When the Turkish army tried to airdrop troops, fierce fighting broke out,” ANF quoted a HPG official as saying on Sunday.
“Mobile guerrilla units intervened eleven times against air landing attempts. A Sikorsky transport helicopter was hit and crashed in the Barzan area. Immediately afterwards, the crash site was bombed four times by Turkish fighter jets,” the HPG official said.
The battle followed another day of fierce fighting on Saturday, during which guerrillas said they shot down one of the Sikorsky transport helicopters after a night of heavy bombardment by Turkish jets.
“A Sikorsky was hit during an attempted airdrop operation and crashed after a hundred metres,” ANF quoted a HPG official as saying. “The helicopter exploded and was completely destroyed along with the soldiers on board. Two other transport helicopters were badly hit.”
Turkey launched its Operation Claw-Lock in April, when Turkish officials said the cross-border offensive was necessary to prevent attacks on Turkish soil by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK and its armed forces, the HPG, see Turkey’s military activities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq as an invasion and illegal occupation.
The HPG says it has shot down 10 Turkish helicopters since the beginning of Operation Claw-Lock. Turkish state and press sources did not report losing any helicopters in the operation until 5 September.