The Turkish military said Thursday that the helicopter that crashed last week during operations against the PKK in the Çukurca district of southeastern Hakkari province might have been shot down. The statement said the helicopter "could have been hit and brought down by an unspecified anti-aircraft weapon," which could have been a "missile," and added that the investigation is ongoing. The military had initially said the Cobra helicopter crashed due to a technical problem, killing two military pilots. There were previous reports that the PKK, a group recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and EU, is able to acquire man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) by through its Syrian affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed People's Protection Units (YPG).
A recently posted video by a PKK-linked media account purports to show a PKK terrorist shooting a Cobra attack helicopter with a MANPADS and has garnered attention on social media in Turkey. This development has raised the national security threat level the PKK poses since it provides the group with the ability to target Turkish aircraft, which it has not previously been able to do.
Under the guise of fighting DAESH, the PYD has been able to promote itself as a moderate opposition group in Syria, attracting U.S. support, to Ankara's displeasure. Russia and the Syrian regime have also been cooperating with the group, whose links with the PKK have been proven various times.
Ever since it ended the cease-fire with the Turkish state last July, the PKK has escalated attacks and sparked clashes across the southeast. By adopting the YPG's urban warfare strategy while its militants gained experience fighting alongside YPG fighters against DAESH in Syria, the PKK has broadened its attacks to urban centers, causing serious damage to cities and towns. Yet the most significant change in the PKK's tactics has been the complete overhaul of its weapons arsenal, from AK-47s to MANPADS, which experts believe will constrain the military's ability to conduct airstrikes on PKK targets.
Since the return to hostilities, more than 450 security personnel, including troops, police officers and village guards and more than 4,500 PKK terrorists have been killed in counterterrorism operations across Turkey and Northern Iraq.