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Turkish forces kill 23 Kurdish militants in southeast operation

map_of_turkeyTurkish security forces have killed a total of 23 Kurdish militants in military operations inside two towns this week against suspected members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), official media said on Thursday.

The operations conducted inside the towns of Cizre and Silopi in the southeastern Sirnak province, backed by curfews, mark a new escalation in five months of fighting with the PKK since a truce collapsed.

Twenty-two PKK members have been killed in Cizre since the operations began earlier this week, while one was killed in Silopi, the state-run Anatolia news agency said. The new toll includes eight militants whose killing was announced by the army the day earlier.

According to Turkish media, some 10,000 members of the police and army have been deployed in Cizre and Silopi in one of the biggest operations yet against the PKK, who have erected barricades and ditches inside the towns.

Images published by Anatolia showed heavily armed soldiers backed by tanks going house-to-house in the towns and firing from street corners.

The authorities also imposed blanket and open-ended curfews in the two towns, the latest in a succession of such measures across the southeast that have angered activists.

There have also been growing tensions over a curfew in the Sur district of southeastern Diyarbakir province — also mainly Kurdish — that has been in place almost uninterrupted since December 2.

There were new clashes early Thursday between police and pro-PKK sympathisers in Diyarbakir, an AFP correspondent reported.

The PKK launched a formal insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984, initially fighting for Kurdish independence although it now presses more for greater autonomy and rights for the country’s largest ethnic minority. The conflict has left tens of thousands dead.

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