SANLIURFA, Turkey, April 11 – Fighting raged on Monday between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey as the cabinet held an unprecedented meeting on the edge of the restive region to discuss ways of rebuilding its shattered economy.
The Turkish army said 39 members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) had been killed in clashes in four towns across the region over the weekend, adding to a death toll that has risen sharply since the collapse of a ceasefire last July.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu chaired the cabinet meeting in the city of Sanliurfa, which though located in southeast Turkey is still hundreds of km (miles) from the main areas of conflict.
Meeting for the first time outside the capital Ankara since 2003, ministers were due to discuss urban regeneration plans after months of clashes in several towns across the mainly Kurdish southeast.
Gunfire rang out overnight and smoke rose from neighbourhoods in Yuksekova in Hakkari province, which neighbours Iran, security sources said.
The army said 20 PKK militants had been killed on Saturday and 19 more on Sunday in the towns of Nusaybin, Sirnak, Silopi and Yuksekova. It did not say whether any members of the military or security forces had also been killed.
Thousands of militants and hundreds of civilians and soldiers have been killed since the PKK resumed its armed fight against the Turkish state last summer, wrecking a 2-1/2-year ceasefire and peace process.
The government has refused to return to the negotiating table and has vowed to “liquidate” the PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the PKK took up arms in 1984.