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Turkey re-imposes curfews in southeast

September 14, 2015

Turkey has restored daylight curfews in the southeast to suppress Kurdish militants. The measure came into effect after thousands turned out for funerals of 16 people killed in the besieged city of Cizre.

Symbolbild Cizre Türkei Ausgangssperre Abgeriegelt Soldaten Polizei Überwachung
Image: Reuters/Sertac Kayar

Turkey's curfew over the predominately Kurdish city Cizre went back into force at 7 p.m. (1600 UTC) Sunday and will be in effect until further notice, the local governor's office said.

Turkish authorities say up to 32 Kurdish militants and one civilian were killed during the previous nine-day curfew imposed in Cizre in an "anti-terror" operation against suspected PKK members. Residents say the fighting has left many of the town's buildings devastated from street fighting between troops and militants.

Kurdish groups on the ground dispute that militants were killed. The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) says 21 people - all civilians - were killed by security forces as violence between soldiers, police and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) continues to spiral.

The operation in Cizre, a city of 120,000 on the border with Syria and close to Iraq, was a key part of the government's anti-PKK offensive as security forces continue to suffer losses in attacks.

Residents remain defiant

Türkei Ausschreitungen in Diyarbakir
Protesters set fires as they clash with riot police in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, September 13, 2015.Image: Reuters/S. Kayar

Culture and Tourism Minister Yalcin Topcu told the state-run Anadolu Agency that security forces had dealt the PKK a significant blow.

"A significant portion of the mountain forces has been destroyed. Their structures in the cities are being ripped out and cast aside," Topcu said.

But the crackdown has been criticized by rights groups. Amnesty International said the Cizre curfew had included "the cutting of mobile phone signals, the blocking of roads, preventing anyone from entering or leaving the city, and reported cuts to water and electricity."

The Turkish government also imposed a curfew in parts of Diyarbakir, the mainly Kurdish southeast's de facto capital, as security forces conducted a new anti-PKK offensive.

The local governor's office said the curfew had been put in place at 5:00 a.m. (0200 UTC) and would last until further notice.

Television broadcast images of police roadblocks preventing access to the historic city center of within its imposing city walls.

Peace protests violently dispersed

Türkei Ausschreitungen in Istanbul
Riot police disperse demonstrators during a protest in solidarity with the people of Cizre in Istanbul, Turkey, September 13, 2015.Image: Reuters/Y. Karahan

Meanwhile in Istanbul, riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at peace protesters marching down the commercial heart of Istanbul.

The protesters were marching down Istiklal Avenue, the city's pedestrian shopping street, chanting anti-government slogans and holding signs that said "Peace" when riot police moved in.

A renewed conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK erupted in July after a two-year ceasefire collapsed. It has inflamed nationalist tensions in Turkey and led to the deaths of 200 people.

The state-run Anatolia news agency said 118 members of the security forces had died in the current flare up of violence. In figures not possible to independently verify, it also said 1,192 Kurdish militants had been killed.

Speaking in Diyarbakir, co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish HDP Selahattin Demirtas said the situation showed the need for a return to peace talks.

"We call on all the parties to take into account the public's expectations," he said in televised comments.

The PKK began its armed insurrection in 1984, triggering a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people. The group, which says it is now fighting for greater Kurdish autonomy, is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

jar/bw (dpa, Reuters, AFP)