Twelve Turkish soldiers and four Afghan civilians were killed on Friday when a NATO helicopter crashed onto a house and burst into flames on the outskirts of the Afghan capital Kabul, Turkey's general staff and a senior Afghan police official said.
“Twelve of our military personnel on board the helicopter have been martyred,” the Turkish General Staff said in a statement in Ankara. It said a team had been sent to the scene of the crash to investigate the cause.
The crash came amid growing unease among NATO partner countries about the increasingly unpopular and costly war nearly 11 years into the conflict as most foreign combat troops set to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Wreckage including body parts and corpses littered the site, as relief workers and Turkish soldiers covered bodies with red and purple blankets on a ground in front of a smoking hole in the house.
Two women and two children were among those killed when the helicopter crashed into the house, an Afghan police officer said, adding it appeared to be a technical failure.
Turkey's mission in Afghanistan is limited to patrols and its soldiers do not take part in combat operations. It has more than 1,800 soldiers serving in the country, most of them around the capital.
Unlike other NATO countries, public opinion in Turkey has been less critical over having troops in Afghanistan, given their non-combat role. Nor is there as much resentment among Afghans over the Turkish presence, because they are fellow Muslims and because of the historical links between Turkey and Afghanistan.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force said earlier that the cause of the crash was still unknown but that there had been no reports of insurgent actions in the area.
In January, six U.S. Marines were killed in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan, which followed the death of 30 American personnel, including 22 Navy SEAL commandos, in eastern Afghanistan in August last year.
An investigation into the August incident confirmed the Taliban had fired a rocket-propelled grenade that hit one of the rotary blades and exploded, sending the helicopter plummeting to the ground and bursting into flames.
On Thursday, in a blow to NATO hopes of a negotiated end to the decade-old war, the Afghan Taliban said they were suspending nascent peace talks with the United States, following the massacre of 16 civilians by an American soldier.
The U.S. government said it remained committed to political reconciliation involving talks with the Taliban but progress would require agreement between the Afghan government and the insurgents. For more, click: