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Turkey to lift curfew in cut-off city of Cizre after reports of civilian deaths

Turkish authorities are due to lift a curfew imposed on the city of Cizre in support of a military operation against Kurdish rebels. Civilian deaths have been reported and the city's mayor has been removed.

The Turkish military operation in the city of 120,000 people on the border with Syria and close to Iraq was a key part of attacks against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants.

Warplanes struck 64 PKK targets in raids on northern Iraq, dropping 80 bombs, according to state media.

"The curfew that has been in place since September 4 will come to an end on Saturday September 12 at 7:00 am (0400 UTC)," Sirnak region governor Ali Ihsan Su said in a statement. During the curfew, outsiders had not been allowed to enter the city in what Kurdish activists described as a blockade.

Interior Minister Selami Altinok said up to 32 PKK militants had been killed in Cizre up to Thursday. He claimed just one civilian had died in the clashes.

Representatives of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) have been trying to visit the city and reported that the civilian death toll in fighting was 21, including children. The Firat news agency claimed that two children, aged 10 and 15, were shot dead overnight for breaking the curfew.

Cizre's mayor, Leyla Imret, was removed from office by the Interior Ministry after being placed under investigation for "terrorist propaganda" and "inciting violence."

Rights concerns

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks called for independent observers to be allowed into Cizre after receiving what he called "very distressing information" from the city.

Muiznieks said the situation "combines an exceptionally severe interference with the human rights of a very large population and a near-complete information blackout."

As reports emerged of residents running out of drinking water and food, Amnesty International demanded Turkish authorities allow residents to access basic supplies: "An indefinite, round-the-clock curfew is a disproportionate restriction, as is blocking all access to the city," the rights group said in statement.

jm/bw (EFE, AFP)

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