Turkish military says 25 militants have died in Şırnak province as president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vows to ‘annihilate’ PKK
Reuters in Diyarbakır
Gunfire clattered constantly and smoke rose from two towns in south-east Turkey as the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said Kurdish militants would be “annihilated” in an intensifying urban battle that has killed 25 fighters in two days.
The three-decades-old insurgency by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party flared up again in July after the collapse of a ceasefire that had lasted two years, plunging Turkey’s mainly Kurdish south-east back into open conflict.
Twenty-four PKK militants were killed in Cizre and one in Silopi in the latest operations, the Turkish military said in a statement. Eight members of the security forces suffered wounds that were not life threatening.
The two towns, in Şırnak province near the border with Syria and Iraq, have become central targets for the latest anti-PKK operations in which Turkey’s media says 10,000 police and troops, backed by tanks, are taking part.
Erdoğan said the operations would continue until the area was “cleansed” of the militants and their barricades and trenches destroyed.
“You will be annihilated in those houses, those buildings, those ditches which you have dug,” he told a crowd in Konya. “Our security forces will continue this fight until it has been completely cleansed and a peaceful atmosphere established.”
Machine gun bursts echoed across Cizre on Thursday and smoke funnelled up from the town, overlooked by armoured vehicles parked on hills, after a spate of blasts and shooting overnight, with tracer fire lighting up the sky.
“Through resistance we will win”, Kurds could be heard chanting in Cizre, while others shouted, whistled and banged saucepans, and children kicked store shutters in the darkened streets in a protest against the operations. Witnesses said there were similar scenes in Silopi overnight.
A 45-year-old mother of four, named as Hediye Sen, was killed during clashes in Cizre, while a 70-year-old died of a heart attack during fighting in Silopi, according to hospital sources.
The PKK launched its insurgency in 1984 and more than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Peace talks between its jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan, and the Turkish state ground to a halt early this year. The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the EU.