Turkish Forces Kill 32 Kurdish Militants as Conflict Escalates

A Kurdish demonstrator argues with members of Turkish police special forces during a protest against security operations in the region, in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar

By Seyhmus Cakan

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, Jan 10 – Security forces killed 32 Kurdish militants in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast this weekend, the army and security sources said on Sunday, escalating a conflict reignited by the collapse of a two-year ceasefire last summer.

It was one of the bloodiest weekends since the three-decades-old insurgency resumed last July, scuppering a peace process launched by Ankara with the jailed leader of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in late 2012.

On Saturday, 16 rebels were killed in the towns of Cizre and Silopi, near the Syrian and Iraqi borders, and another four were killed in the historic Sur district of the region’s largest city, Diyarbakir, the armed forces said in a statement.

It said that a total of 448 militants had been killed in those three areas since they were placed under round-the-clock curfew and security operations were launched last month.

Police killed a further 12 PKK members after finding them in a house in the southeastern city of Van overnight, security sources said. One police officer died and two others were wounded in the operation.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the PKK launched its insurgency in 1984.

The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, says it is fighting for autonomy and greater rights for Kurds in the NATO member country.

On Friday, security forces killed 16 militants in Cizre and two in Sur on Friday, according to a previous military statement.

A recent shift in fighting from the countryside to urban centres has left civilians caught in the middle. According to figures from the pro-Kurdish HDP party, 81 civilians have been killed in Diyarbakir, Silopi and Cizre since they were placed under curfew last month.

Thousands of people have left their homes in the towns. Residents complain of indiscriminate operations and say the curfews have even prevented the sick from getting to hospital.

President Tayyip Erdogan has said 3,100 PKK members were killed in operations inside and outside Turkey in 2015.

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