Security forces have killed 20 Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey while three Turkish soldiers died in a rebel attack, the military says, as authorities widened a curfew in the mainly Kurdish region’s largest city, Diyarbakir.
Hundreds of locals, including children and the elderly, fled curfew-bound areas of Diyarbakir’s Sur district as gunfire and blasts resounded and police helicopters flew overhead, a Reuters witness said on Wednesday.
Some people cried as they carried away possessions.
Southeastern Turkey has endured its worst violence in two decades since a 2-1/2-year-old ceasefire between the state and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants collapsed in July, reviving a conflict that has killed 40,000 people since 1984.
The army said 11 PKK members died in the town of Cizre, near the Syrian border, and nine more in Sur on Tuesday, bringing the militant death toll in the two towns to some 600 since security operations began there last month.
It said three soldiers were killed in a militant attack in Sur, where security sources said militants opened fire with rifles and a rocket launcher.
The ancient Sur district, enclosed by Roman city walls, has suffered extensive damage in the fighting and much of it has been under a round-the-clock curfew since Dec. 2.
The district governor’s office said the curfew was extended to five more districts so security forces could remove explosive devices and barricades and fill in ditches set up by militants.
Turkey, the United States and the European Union all classify the PKK as a terrorist organisation. The PKK says it is fighting for autonomy for Turkey’s Kurdish minority.
Rights groups and locals have voiced growing concern about the civilian death toll in the security operations since last month. The pro-Kurdish HDP party puts the toll at nearly 120.