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At Least 69 Kurdish Fighters Reported Dead After Clashes in Southeast Turkey

Two members of the Turkish security forces were also reported killed during four days of clashes, and Turkish jets reportedly bombed PKK camps in northern Iraq.
December 19, 2015, 4:18pm
Photo via EPA

Four days of clashes in southeast Turkey have reportedly killed at least 69 Kurdish militants and two members of the Turkish security forces. Turkish jets also reportedly bombed several Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) camps in northern Iraq on Friday, destroying shelters and fighting posts.

In July, a two-year ceasefire between Turkey and the militant PKK crumbled, triggering a relapse of violence in Kurdish territories in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq. More than 40,000 people have been killed since the Kurdish insurgency began in 1984, and the peace process recently fell apart after the PKK claimed responsibility for the fatal shootings of two Turkish police officers near the Syrian border city of Ceylanpinar.

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Speaking in the southwestern city of Anatolia earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to continue ramping up military efforts to subdue the PKK. "You will be destroyed in the houses, apartments and trenches that you have dug," Erdogan said, according to local news outlets. "All the Turkish security forces, soldiers, police officers and voluntary village guards will continue to fight until everywhere in [the southeast] is cleansed [of PKK militants] and until an atmosphere of peace is ensured there. We will not stop! We will fight with the same determination."

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On Friday, Kurdish protesters defied a curfew and gathered in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir to condemn the military operations in the region. Video from the scene of one rally showed demonstrators in a tense face-off with police.

Amed Ofis'te halk gözalt? yapmaya çal??an çevik kuvvete kar?? direniyor.— Sosyal Devrim (@Sosyal_Devrim)December 18, 2015

Meanwhile, the leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish political party called for resistance against a large-scale security operation in the southeast. Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), urged local residents to "expand the struggle" and embrace "honorable resistance," at a press conference on Friday.

"If they think they can make us take a step back by showing a tank gun, they are wrong," he said. "We fear nobody but God. We call on all civil society groups to embrace resistance in the lands of Kurdistan."

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The last four days of fighting have taken place in the Turkish towns of Cizre and Silori, not far from the Syrian and Iraqi borders. These two towns, both under curfew, have become strategic targets for Turkey's' latest anti-PKK operations. Media reports said that Turkey has deployed around 10,000 police and troops, backed by tanks in the area.

The Turkish military has also escalated bombardments of PKK bases in northern Iraq. According to the Andalou Agency, a state-run media group, the strikes have killed more than 700 militants since late July.

In August, Iraq's Kurdish regional government urged the PKK to "withdraw" from its territory to prevent civilian deaths amid the Turkish bombing campaign on the region. Kurdish President Masoud Barzani said the PKK "should withdraw its fighters from the Kurdish region so to ensure the civilians of Kurdistan do not become victim of that fighting and conflict." Barzani has also condemned Turkey ramping up operations against the PKK and called on both parties to resume peace talks.

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