Minister says at least 30 PKK fighters killed in Cizre in past week but pro-Kurdish HDP says 21 civilians have died.
Turkey’s government has lifted a curfew in the southeastern city of Cizre, the scene of heavy fighting between the army and fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The move on Saturday followed a week-long curfew, during which 32 fighters were killed, according to officials.
Sirnak province governor, Ali Ihsan Su, had announced the curfew would end on Saturday morning, in a statement released a day earlier.
The operation against PKK fighters had sparked concern for Cizre’s inhabitants, with reports of food running out, residents unable to seek urgent treatment, and even burials being impossible to carry out.
“During this time, our security forces carried out a successful operation against members of the separatist terror organisation,” the statement said, using the customary official term for the PKK.
“I want to sincerely thank the dear citizens of Cizre for their patience and sensitivity in this period,” the governor’s statement added.
During the curfew, outsiders had not been allowed to enter the city in what Kurdish activists termed a blockade.
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 drive to cripple the PKK in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq, which started in late July and shows no sign of abating.
In a massive new wave of strikes, Turkish warplanes struck 64 PKK targets in overnight raids on northern Iraq, dropping 80 bombs, state media said.
At least 60 PKK fighters were killed in the strikes, carried out by 21 Turkish F-16 and F-4 warplanes. The toll could not be verified independently.
The leader of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party said earlier on Friday the curfew in Cizre had turned into a “death sentence” for Kurds in the Kurdish-majority city.
“Normally, the fine when someone breaks a curfew is 100 Turkish lira [$33],” said Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) ,who had been trying to visit the city in the last days.
“In Cizre, the fine is the death sentence and executions,” Turkish media quoted him as saying, in the town of Idil, west of Cizre.
Interior Minister Selami Altinok said on Thursday that up to 32 PKK fighters had been killed in Cizre, adding just one civilian had died in the clashes.
The HDP, however, contends that the civilian death toll is 21, including children.
“Those who venture out into the streets are killed by snipers. A violation that normally costs just 100 lira has become the price of death for the Kurds,” Demirtas added.
Demirtas challenged the authorities to give names and prove that a single one of those killed were members of the PKK.