DIYARBAKIR – Security forces killed 20 Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey while a rebel attack killed three Turkish soldiers, the military said on Wednesday, as authorities widened a curfew in the mainly Kurdish region’s largest city, Diyarbakir.
The southeast has endured the worst violence in two decades since a 2-1/2-year-old ceasefire between the state and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants collapsed in July, reviving a conflict that has killed 40,000 people since 1984.
The army said 11 PKK members died in the town of Cizre, near the Syrian border, and nine more in Diyarbakir’s Sur district on Tuesday, bringing the militant death toll in the two towns to some 600 since security operations began there last month.
Security sources said militants in Sur wounded two police officers when they opened fire with rifles and also wounded six soldiers in a rocket-launcher attack. The military said three of the soldiers subsequently died.
The historic Sur district, enclosed by Roman city walls, has suffered extensive damage in the fighting and much of it has been under round-the-clock curfew since Dec. 2.
The district governor’s office said the curfew was extended to five other districts and a main road in the area on Wednesday so that security forces could remove barricades and explosive devices and fill in ditches set up by the militants.
Turkey, the United States and the European Union all classify the PKK as a terrorist organisation. The PKK says it is fighting for autonomy for Turkey’s Kurdish minority.
Separately, Spanish police arrested nine people accused of being associated with the PKK on Wednesday, Spain’s Interior Ministry said.