Hundreds of Turks Flee Deadly Violence As City Curfew Lifted

Hundreds have fled their homes amid violence still raging in Turkey's southeast. In another city, six people out of a group trapped in a basement for nearly two weeks are reported to have died.
February 3, 2016, 12:35pm
Imagen por STR/EPA

Hundreds of people fled a conflict-hit area of southeast Turkey's largest city Diyarbakir on Wednesday, taking advantage of the lifting of a curfew to escape fierce fighting between security forces and Kurdish militants.

In another besieged Kurdish town, at least six of a group of up to 31 people trapped in a basement for nearly two weeks have died, with ambulances unable to reach them despite being stationed nearby, according to the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party.

A Reuters witness said people left the Diyarbakir's Sur district with suitcases, televisions and carpets on the back of pick-up trucks and handcarts, deserting an area damaged heavily in fighting since a curfew was declared there a month ago.

"It's always the ordinary people who suffer," said Mehmet Ceylan, 45, carrying a bundle on his back. "I've lived in Sur for years, and I've never witnessed a scene like this."

The night before, authorities had extended the curfew already in place in 11 of the city's 15 districts to cover the other four. But at 10am local time on Wednesday, the curfew was lifted in nine of the districts, in the city's western parts. The eastern side remained under round-the-clock curfew.

Hundreds of militants, security force members, and civilians have been killed since July when a ceasefire collapsed, triggering the worst violence in two decades and wrecking hopes for a peace deal in a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 since 1984.

Thousands of police and tanks have been attacking towns and cities in the southeast of the country, and curfews have been declared in more than 20 towns.

The state says the curfews are imposed so police can remove barricades, explosive devices and ditches set up by the PKK, deemed a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said it had not been able to communicate for three days with a group of people, some wounded, trapped for more than a week in a basement in the southeastern town of Cizre, under curfew since mid-December.

At least six of the 31 people in the building, which has largely collapsed, have died over the past two weeks and others are seriously wounded, the HDP said on Wednesday.

HDP deputy Idris Baluken told a news conference last Friday that ambulances belonging to the HDP-run municipality in Cizre, near the Syrian border, had tried to reach the group trapped in the cellar on 11 occasions but had been blocked at security force checkpoints.

Kasim Yana is one of the wounded who are trapped since 9 days in a basement in #Cizre #TwitterKurds pic.twitter.com/hHcR05NuAJ

— Cahida Dêrsim (@dilkocer) January 31, 2016

TODAY: A peace chain from Sirnak to #Cizre where at least 25 people are still trapped in a basement & under attack pic.twitter.com/AnlONOJHH2

— KurdishQuestion.com (@KurdishQuestion) February 2, 2016

The government has denied its security forces are preventing ambulances from reaching the building and has accused militants of firing on emergency workers.

The Turkish army says more than 600 militants have been killed since security operations began in Cizre last month, and denies accusations it has killed large numbers of civilians.

The fighting has caused extensive damage not just in Cizre but also the town of Silopi, near the Iraqi border, and the ancient Sur district of the main city Diyarbakir, enclosed by Roman-era walls which were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list last year. All have been under curfew since December.

On Monday, Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against all travel to the city of Diyarbakir.

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