The bodies of two more people who died in last week’s helicopter crash were found on Sunday by the security forces of the Kurdistan autonomous government in Iraq.
Citing unnamed sources, Kurdistan 24 claimed that the second helicopter had crashed in an area far from the presence of Kurdistan security forces.
Following days of uncertainty, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria announced on Friday that two of its helicopters had crashed due to bad weather conditions in Iraqi Kurdistan’s northern city of Duhok, and that nine fighters from its counter-terrorism units had been killed.
The Kurdistan security forces in Iraq had previously found the bodies of three women and four men at the crash site.
Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Saturday claimed that one of the helicopters which crashed had been purchased by a group within the Sulaymaniyah-based Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
According to the SDF, the helicopters were headed to Sulaymaniyah to share security and military information. Barzani told reporters that they were working with the Iraqi federal government and the US-led coalition to understand why the helicopters were in the air without permission and what were they doing in that area.
The crash took place amid increased tensions between Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which is dominant in Erbil and Duhok, and the PUK, led by Bafel Talabani, which dominates Sulaymaniyah and Halabja.
Following the crash, the Kurdistan Region Security Council accused the PUK of “covertly and informally” facilitating the relationship between the SDF and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq.
The Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has established close ties with Turkey, mainly through paving the way for Turkey’s cross-border operations into South Kurdistan (northern Iraq) against PKK bases there.
The Turkish authorities have so far remained silent about the helicopter crash, apart from when the Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Friday that supporters of the PKK had been caught red-handed “giving helicopters to terrorists”.
Meanwhile, a ceremony was held in north Syria’s Kurdish-controlled Hasakah (Hesekê) on Sunday for Rênad Elî, nom-de-guerre Xebat Tirbespiyê, who died in the crash.
Another ceremony was also held in Germany’s Darmstadt to commemorate the nine fighters who died in the crash.