Turkey’s dangerous war on Kurdish militants

Updated - September 22, 2016 09:08 pm IST

Published - January 01, 2016 11:46 pm IST - ISTANBUL:

A major Turkish military operation to eradicate Kurdish militants in Turkey’s restive southeast has turned dozens of urban districts into bloody battlefields, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians and shattering hopes of reviving peace as an old war reaches its deadliest level in two decades.

200 militants killed

During the past week, Turkish tanks and artillery have pounded Kurdish targets across several southeast cities, killing at least 200 militants and more than 150 civilians, according to human rights groups and local officials.

Their descriptions of the fighting and mass destruction in populated areas, which are off-limits to journalists, depict war zones not unlike the scenes in neighbouring Syria to the south.

Several Turkish cities are under tight lockdown, and many residents have been trapped without food or electricity as clashes between Kurdish militants and Turkish security forces have intensified.

Militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have dug trenches and put up barricades and are using heavy weaponry and rocket launchers to repel the Turkish police, according to local officials.

Turkey has been fighting a counterinsurgency campaign against the PKK since the group ended a two-year ceasefire in July. Photographs and video clips from the region distributed by local officials show chaos and destruction, with black smoke rising above shelled buildings and neighbourhoods.

The town of Cizre, in the southeastern province of Sirnak, has been under a curfew for more than two weeks, with mounting civilian casualties. At least 200 members of Turkey’s security forces have been killed since the conflict resumed.

In the district of Silopi, which borders northern Iraq, residents say they are trapped in a war zone.

Rights groups say the civilian death toll will rise steeply.

“The Turkish government should rein in its security forces, immediately stop the abusive and disproportionate use of force, and investigate the deaths and injuries caused by its operations,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, a senior Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch. — New York Times News Service

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