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General Who Led War on Kurds Among 5 Killed in Crash

February 17, 1993

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ A general who led last year’s campaign against separatist Kurds died Wednesday when his military plane went down in flames on the outskirts of Ankara.

Interior Minister Ismet Sezgin told parliament the plane’s twin engines failed. There was no immediate evidence of sabotage.

Gen. Esref Bitlis, the commander of gendarme forces, was en route to Diyarbakir, the main city in the Kurdish-dominated southeast, when the aircraft crashed. Four other soldiers in the plane were killed, and a civilian on the ground was badly burned.

In October, Bitlis supervised the military offensive against Turkish Kurdish rebel bases across the border in northern Iraq. The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party has been fighting a guerrilla war in southeastern Turkey for nearly nine years.

The aircraft took off from a small base outside Ankara and went down in the courtyard of a post office five miles away.

Metin Okcu, a retired air force general, told The Associated Press that the plane, a B-200, was one of five twin-engine, eight-seat Beechcraft turboprops purchased from the United States less than a year ago to transport military officials.

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