5 killed in mysterious north Iraq helicopter crash; PKK militants reportedly onboard

DOHUK, Iraq (AP): A mysterious helicopter crash in northern Iraq has killed at least five people, allegedly including militants belonging to an outlawed Kurdish insurgency group, according to statements Thursday from the Iraqi Kurdish-run counterterrorism agency and the region’s president.

The AS350 Eurocopter crashed in the district of Chamanke in Dohuk province in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region on Wednesday night, the counter-terrorism agency said in a statement posted on social media.

At least five passengers were killed, said Lawk Ghafuri, spokesperson for the Kurdish region’s President Nechirvan Barzani.

“The investigations are ongoing by security officials to determine the ownership of the helicopter,” Ghafuri said in a post on Twitter.

At least seven were on board, according to an investigator at the crash scene speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation with the media.

The helicopter was carrying militants belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, the counter-terrorism statement said. No party has of yet claimed ownership of the chopper.

Iraq’s government, the U.S-led coalition and Turkiye had been contacted by the Iraqi Kurdish regional government about the crash, but each denied the helicopter was theirs, the statement added.

Zagros Hiwa, a PKK spokesperson, said the group does not possess helicopters and they were also investigating the incident. He also cast doubt on the presence of PKK militants onboard the flight, saying they may have a coalition helicopter carrying fighters with the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, a Syrian Kurdish group allied with the US-led forces.

A spokesman for the US-led coalition declined to comment, saying the crash fell outside the scope of the coalition’s operations.

Turkish defense ministry officials said that initial reports that the helicopter had been Turkish were “completely untrue” and that there was no helicopter flight belonging to the Turkish military in the region.

The PKK has been waging an insurgency against Turkiye since the 1980s and is considered a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union. Its militants have established safe havens in northern Iraq and frequently come under attack by Turkiye in the region.