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Turkey intensifies military operation against Kurds

December 16, 2015

The Turkish army has killed at least eight Kurdish militants in the country's southeast as Ankara steps up its crackdown on the Kurdistan Workers' Party. A Turkish court also banned three books dealing with the Kurds.

Demonstrators set tyres on fire as they clash with riot police during a protest against the curfew in Sur district, in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, December 14, 2015 (Photo: REUTERS/Sertac Kayar)
Image: Reuters/S. Kayar

Security forces launched a major military operation in the southeastern towns of Silvan and Cizre, killing at least eight militants belonging to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the country's army said on Wednesday.

A ceasefire between the PKK and the government collapsed in July. The crackdown is the latest in a five-month government campaign seeking to crush the outlawed group. The authorities also imposed curfews in the two restive towns, a move slammed by rights activist in the area.

Pro-Kurdish media said an 11-year-old boy had also been killed during the operation, a claim that could not be immediately verified.

State media reported on Wednesday that the Turkish government planned to deploy a 10,000-strong force to bring the region under its control.

'Neighborhood by neighborhood'

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed to continue the operations and pursue the militants "neighborhood by neighborhood, house by house, and street by street."

"We will turn … every piece of our homeland into an area of peace, stability and freedom," the premier said on Tuesday.

The conflict between the PKK and Ankara has killed over 40,000 people since 1984. The Kurdish minority, which comprises 15 percent of Turkey, complains of systematic discrimination by the state.

The renewed violence also coincided with two general elections in Turkey this year; in the first, a pro-Kurdish party cleared the prohibitive 10-percentle hurdle to win seats in parliament. Davutoglu's ruling AK Party, unwilling or unable to form a coalition afterwards, ultimately called a fresh ballot - whose build-up was overshadowed by clashes between the PKK and the military. Second time around, the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) fell short of the 10 percent of the vote needed to enter parliament.

Escalating violence

The army offensive in Turkey's southeastern towns has angered the residents as they protest against search operations, curfews and barricades set up by the authorities.

Three police officers were killed in a roadside bombing on Tuesday. Ankara blamed the attack on Kurdish rebels based in the Diyarbakir province. The attack came after two Kurds were shot dead on Monday during violent clashes between local Kurds and security forces in the Sur district of Diyarbakir.

Banning of books

In another action against the PKK, a Turkish court banned three books dealing with the Kurdish movement. The court also ordered confiscation of all copies of the books, saying they "spread terrorist propaganda," according to local media.

The books, authored by journalists Hasan Cemal and Tugce Tatari, offer insights into the armed PKK movement and are popular among many Turks.

In October, the police raided an apartment and seized the books. They also confiscated books written by jailed PKK leader Abdualla Ocalan.

Tatari's lawyer, Asli Kazan Gilmore, said the court's ruling was a violation of free speech, and that he would appeal to the Constitutional Court.

shs/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)