TURKEY

Ceremony for Turkish soldiers martyred in air crash

CEREMONY FOR TURKISH SOLDIERS MARTYRED IN AIR CRASH

7 soldiers martyred in helicopter crash honored in Şırnak, bodies of 6 others transferred to Ankara.

A ceremony was held Thursday for seven of the 13 soldiers martyred in a helicopter crash in southeast Turkey.

Defense Minister Fikri Işık, Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu were among the mourners at the 23rd Gendarmerie Border Division Command in Şırnak city.

Chief of the General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and the heads of the army, navy and air force -- Gen. Salih Zeki Çolak, Adm. Bülent Bostanoğlu and Gen. Abidin Ünal -- also attended the ceremony.

The bodies of the seven -- Staff Col. Gökhan Peker, Lt. Col. Songül Yakut, Maj. Koray Onay, Capt. Nuri Şener, Capt. Serhat Sığnak, Sgt. Maj. Mehmet Erdoğan and Spc. Sgt. Zeki Koç -- are to be returned to their hometowns.

The remains of the six other casualties, including Maj. Gen. Aydoğan Aydın, have been transferred to the capital Ankara for autopsies.

The crash happened late Wednesday when a AS532 Cougar helicopter hit power lines shortly after take-off from a base at Şenoba in the Uludere district of Şırnak province.

It was the third accident involving a Cougar helicopter in the last 20 years. A total of 15 soldiers were martyred in 1997 and 2003 crashes. The multipurpose helicopter has been used by the Turkish military for 21 years.

YAKUT FIRST WOMAN TURKISH GENDARMERIE DISTRICT COMMANDER
Gendarmerie Lt. Col Songül Yakut was the first woman in the history of the Turkish Gendarmerie to be named a district commander.

Born in 1976, Yakut was accepted into the Turkish Military Academy but instead chose to attend the Gendarmerie Schools Command. Yakut graduated in 1997 and was assigned as a training commander at the school.

Yakut was later assigned to Sirnak for two years, where she served as a commissioned officer in the Psychological Operations Squadron. She was then named commander of the Ankara-Beypazari District Gendarmerie, the first woman in Turkish Gendarmerie history to hold such a post.

After being dismissed over suspicions of FETO links, Yakut successfully fought in the legal system to clear her name. Her second posting to Şırnak was her final assignment.

AYDIN FOUGHT THE PKK IN LONG CAREER
Maj. Gen. Aydoğan Aydın, commander of the 23rd Gendarmerie Border Division Command in Şırnak, was the highest-ranking soldier martyred by the crash.

After graduating from the Turkish Military Academy in 1987, Aydın was assigned to critical operations throughout his career.

The commander particularly took part in many operations in northern Iraq against the terrorist PKK.

Aydın, who was promoted to major general after the July 2016 coup bid, undertook his final mission at Şırnak's Mt. Kato and İncebel Mountains beginning on April 19.

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