DIYARBAKIR, Turkey: Turkish security forces have killed 18 Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey, the military said on Saturday, in the latest clashes to blight a region still reeling from the collapse of a two-year ceasefire last summer.
Security sources said five people, four of them soldiers, had also been wounded in separate gun and bomb attacks in Diyarbakir, biggest city in the mainly Kurdish southeast.
The armed forces said in a statement that 16 PKK fighters had been killed on Friday in the town of Cizre, near the Syrian border, and another two rebels had been killed in the historical Sur district of Diyarbakir.
In Sur, one soldier was shot while another three soldiers and a public sector worker were also wounded in a bomb attack on Saturday, security sources said.
In the town of Silopi, near the Iraqi border, security forces seized 24 militants seeking to leave the town with local citizens, the military statement said.
The army said a total of 426 militants have been killed in the towns of Cizre, Silopi and the Sur district of Diyarbakir – all subject to a round-the-clock curfew – since security force operations began there around a month ago.
Turkish security forces have been battling militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) since 1984 in a conflict that has cost more than 40,000 lives. The PKK is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
A recent shift in fighting from the countryside to urban centers has left civilians caught in the middle. According to figures from the pro-Kurdish HDP party, 72 civilians in the three southeastern towns under the curfew have been killed since Dec. 14.
Thousands of people have left their homes in the towns. Residents complain of indiscriminate operations and say the curfews have even prevented the sick from getting to hospital.
President Tayyip Erdogan has said 3,100 PKK members were killed in operations inside and outside the country in 2015.