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Turkish ultra-nationalist in chopper crash ahead of election

  • Story Highlights
  • Leader of an ultra-nationalist Turkish political party missing after crash
  • Helicopter crashed in mountainous region of Eastern Turkey
  • Hundreds of people searching for Muhsin Yazicioglu and five, six others
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By Ivan Watson
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ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- The leader of an ultra-nationalist Turkish political party was involved Wednesday in a helicopter crash in a mountainous region of eastern Turkey, according to officials and media reports.

There were conflicting reports as to whether Muhsin Yazicioglu survived.

Yazicioglu, head of the Great Union Party (BBP), was on board with five other passengers, said Yalcin Tunc, the party's general secretary. However, the Turkish wire service Anadolu Ajanski reported that Yazicioglu was on the craft along with six others.

Authorities have been unable to reach the chopper due to rough terrain, Tunc said. Adverse weather conditions were also reported in the area.

Rescuers were getting signals from the cell phones of passengers in the downed chopper and were trying to use GPS to determine their location, Turkey's transportation minister told state news agency Anatolian.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Anadolu Ajanski news service that the helicopter crashed near the town of Goksun, and that five people were injured. The chopper took off about 1:30 p.m. local time from Kahramanmaras, headed for Yozgat, the news service reported.

The party received a call concerning the crash about 4:20 p.m. local time from the president's office, Tunc told reporters Wednesday.

About 250 soldiers, a helicopter and a plane were involved in the search, Anatolian said.

The BBP is one of the smallest of at least 10 political parties expected to compete in municipal elections across Turkey on March 29.

--CNN's Talia Kayali contributed to this report.

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