- The Washington Times - Friday, March 27, 2009

ANKARA, TURKEY (AP) - All six people aboard a helicopter that crashed on a Turkish mountaintop have been found dead, the government said Friday, including the leader of a small political party and a passenger whose anguished phone call from the crash site was broadcast around the country.

Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin, citing rescue workers, said the wreckage was found on the third day of a search that had been hampered by snowfall and fog.

The death of Muhsin Yazicioglu, leader of the conservative Great Unity Party, shocked his supporters before Sunday’s local elections.

“May his soul rest in peace. I am expressing my condolences to all his family members and the community,” Sahin said.

Yazicioglu’s helicopter crashed Wednesday in bad weather after leaving an election rally in southern Kahramanmaras province. All political parties suspended pre-election campaigning after the crash.

At least 2,000 soldiers, villagers and other rescue workers had been searching for the helicopter since injured passenger Ismail Gunes phoned an emergency hot line with his cell phone and begged for rescue.

The journalist’s call was broadcast nationwide Thursday. A cameraman for Turkish news agency IHA, Gunes had said he was wedged in the wreckage with a badly broken foot and was freezing. He had said some of the other passengers appeared to be dead, and that his cell phone battery was running out.

The military dispatched units to the site to bring down the bodies but nightfall and snowstorms were reportedly hampering the effort.

Hundreds of party supporters, some weeping, gathered outside the party headquarters.

Prosecutors were trying to reach the site on foot to officially identify Yazicioglu and other victims, said Sahin.

Yazicioglu was a leader of the far-right nationalist movement in Turkey since 1970s. His small party was not expected to make a strong showing in the polls.

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