A Turkish military helicopter on Saturday crashed in Hatay province during an ongoing military operation across the border in the Afrin region of Syria, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
According to Anadolu the T129 ATAK helicopter was shot down in the southeastern Turkish province of Hatay; however, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said the incident took place in Syria’s northern Afrin province.
Yıldırım said it was not certain at this point whether the incident occurred due to an external impact or not. Investigations are ongoing, he said.
The Turkish Armed Forces also confirmed the incident and the deaths, saying the military helicopter had “crashed.”
“They [the perpetrators] will pay a heavy price [for downing the Turkish helicopter],” said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday at a ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK) meeting in İstanbul.
The Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters on Jan. 20 launched Operation Olive Branch in the Afrin region of Syria against the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey sees as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
At least 1,141 terrorists have been “neutralized” since the beginning of Operation Olive Branch, the Turkish General Staff said Saturday.
President Erdoğan on Oct. 8 said Turkey would not allow a Kurdish corridor in Syria extending along the Turkish border to the Mediterranean.