Saturday 1 October 2016

Seven people killed as clashes grind on in southeast Turkey

* Locals under curfew bemoan lack of healthcare, food
* Security sources says six hurt in petrol bomb attack
* Pro-Kurdish party says dozens of civilians killed

Seyhmus Cakan

Published 25/12/2015 | 12:50

Police use water cannon and teargas to disperse people protesting against security operations against Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey, in Istanbul, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Cagdas Erdogan)
Police use water cannon and teargas to disperse people protesting against security operations against Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey, in Istanbul, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Cagdas Erdogan)
A masked man prepares to throw a petrol bomb toward police who used water cannon and teargas to disperse people protesting against security operations against Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey, in Istanbul, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Cagdas Erdogan)
Masked men throw petrol bombs towards police who used water cannons and teargas to disperse people protesting against security operations against Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey, in Istanbul, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Omer Kuscu)

Explosions and gunfire resounded around the southeastern Turkish town of Cizre on Friday after a clash overnight that the army said left six Kurdish militants and one soldier dead as a security operation there entered its 11th day.

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Since a two-year ceasefire between Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants and Ankara fell apart in July, the mainly Kurdish southeast has been plunged back into a three-decades-old conflict which has killed more than 40,000 people.

People carry the coffins of Sirin Oter and Yeliz Erbay, two women killed during security operations on Tuesday, during a funeral ceremony in Istanbul, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
People carry the coffins of Sirin Oter and Yeliz Erbay, two women killed during security operations on Tuesday, during a funeral ceremony in Istanbul, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

A helicopter clattered overhead and armoured vehicles sped along a hilltop road above Cizre, near the Syrian border, as security forces pressed on with a campaign across the region involving thousands of troops, backed by tanks.

Reuters TV footage showed smoke billowing from buildings hit by blasts, while streets were empty and shops shuttered.

The town, in Sirnak province, is the focus of what the government has described as an operation to "cleanse" the area of militants. But locals dispute that description and complain that the attacks are indiscriminate.

"The recent war begin conducted in the Sirnak area, especially in Cizre, is not a cleansing. They are shelling randomly," said shopkeeper Abdullah Varkin, 38, speaking as a small group of children and men looked on.

A masked man throws a petrol bomb toward police using water cannon and teargas to disperse people protesting against security operations against Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey, in Istanbul, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Cagdas Erdogan)
A masked man throws a petrol bomb toward police using water cannon and teargas to disperse people protesting against security operations against Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey, in Istanbul, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Cagdas Erdogan)

"The people are miserable. The sick cannot even go to hospital. The wounded are trying to treat themselves at home and some died due to a lack of doctors and blood loss," he said.

Locals also complained about a lack of food and water.

Both Cizre and Silopi, 30 km (19 miles) away near the Iraqi border, have witnessed intense fighting since a round-the-clock curfew was declared in both towns 12 days ago.

Three soldiers were wounded in Thursday evening's firefight and one of them died in hospital, the army said in a statement.

A masked man waits to throw a petrol bomb toward police who used water cannons and teargas to disperse people protesting against security operations against Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey, in Istanbul, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Omer Kuscu)
A masked man waits to throw a petrol bomb toward police who used water cannons and teargas to disperse people protesting against security operations against Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey, in Istanbul, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Omer Kuscu)

In the town of Sirnak, security sources said four students and two staff suffered burns and smoke inhalation when PKK militants, their faces hidden by scarves, threw petrol bombs in a state-run cultural centre on Friday, triggering a fire.

They said a gunfight erupted between security forces and militants as the building was evacuated.

According to the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), at least 38 civilians have been killed during the latest security operations. State media say 168 PKK militants have been killed.

Since the PKK launched its insurgency in 1984, fighting has been largely focused in the countryside, but the latest conflict has been focused in urban areas, where the PKK youth wing has set up barricades and dug trenches to keep security forces out.

The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Ankara launched a peace process with the group's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan in late 2012 but the talks ground to a halt early this year.

Reuters

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