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[UPDATE] SDF says 9 of its fighters killed in helicopter crashes in Iraq’s Kurdistan region

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The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Friday that nine of its fighters were killed in two helicopters that crashed due to inclement weather while on their way to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).

The SDF statement came at a time when there were claims that the passengers in the helicopters were militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and the international community.

The SDF Media Center said in a statement that a group of SDF counterterrorism forces were transported on March 15 by two helicopters to the KRI to exchange security and military experience to boost the forces’ security and fighting abilities with the aim of continuing their missions to counter terrorism and protect residents of north and east Syria.

The statement said the two helicopters crashed due to poor weather conditions and that nine SDF fighters, including the head of the counterterrorism forces, Sharvan Kobani, were “martyred.”

The SDF is the de facto army of the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria. It provided crucial assistance to a US-led coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Turkey sees the SDF as linked to the PKK, which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s southeast since 1984.

In early March a Turkish drone strike in northern Iraq killed two Yazidi fighters affiliated with the PKK, days after a similar strike killed three other fighters.

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