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Turkish security forces kill 54 Kurdish militants – state media
Fri, Dec 18 14:33 PM IST
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) – Gunfire rang out around the towns of Silopi and Cizre in southeast Turkey early on Friday, witnesses said, as state media reported security forces had killed 54 Kurdish militants in three days of urban fighting there.
The figures indicated a doubling of the death toll in the last 24 hours after President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters would be “annihilated”.
A two-year ceasefire between the PKK and Ankara fell apart in July, shattering peace talks and reviving a conflict which has wrecked the mainly Kurdish southeast for three decades, killing more than 40,000 people.
State-run Anadolu Agency said security forces were in “hot pursuit” of militants in the towns, near the Syrian and Iraqi borders, which were placed under curfew on Monday before an operation which media has said involves 10,000 police and troops backed by tanks.
Traditionally active in the countryside, the PKK has shifted its focus in recent years to towns in the southeast. Ankara has responded by cracking down with operations.
In the region’s biggest city, Diyarbakir, shopkeepers kept their stores shuttered in a sign of protest against the operations which were also being conducted in the city’s historic district of Sur.
Peace talks between the PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan and the state ground to a halt early this year. The PKK is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
(Reporting by Seyhmus Cakan; Writing by Daren Butler; editing by David Dolan)