Turkish operations against Kurdish militants near completion: PM

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 19, 2016 4:45 AM

By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish security force campaign against Kurdish militants in the southeast has been largely completed, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was reported as saying on Tuesday, as he outlined plans to maintain tighter control in parts of the region.

Turkish police and military launched major operations against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters in several towns across the mainly Kurdish region last month, intensifying a conflict reignited by the collapse of a ceasefire in July.

The army says it killed more than 500 PKK rebels in the campaign, adding to a death toll of more than 40,000 people killed since the PKK took up arms in 1984. The pro-Kurdish HDP party says some 100 civilians have been killed in the fighting.

"The process is to a large extent completed," Davutoglu was reported as telling reporters on his plane traveling to London, disclosing plans for a new security structure and reorganization of state administration in two border provinces.

"It won't be like with old operations, withdrawing after streets are cleansed. There will be a more orderly security presence," the Yeni Safak daily quoted him as saying. "The goal is to build a public order...in which no illegal structure can take control of any streets," he said.

For much of the 31-year insurgency, conflict has focused the countryside, but the latest violence has been in urban areas.

The army says that during the campaign it has removed trenches and barricades set up by PKK youth wing members to keep security forces out. Thousands of locals have left the towns hit by conflict, many complaining of indiscriminate operations.

Davutoglu's comments were published after the governor of Sirnak province said a round-the-clock curfew in the town of Silopi, near the Iraqi border, would only be enforced between 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) and 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) from Tuesday.

The town of Cizre, further west near the Syrian border, and the Sur district of the region's largest city in Diyarbakir remain under 24-hour curfew.

Davutoglu said there were plans to make Cizre the administrative center of Sirnak province, as the mountainous town of Sirnak was in a confined area, as part of a "master plan in the fight against terror", Milliyet newspaper reported.

There was a similar plan to move the administrative center of Hakkari province, on the Iraqi and Iranian borders, to Yuksekova because of better security and service infrastructure there, he said.

The PKK, which says it is fighting for autonomy for Turkey's Kurds, is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

Ankara launched a peace process with the PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan in late 2012, but it ground to a halt early in 2015 ahead of a general election. Turkey's leaders have said they will continue operations until the militants are defeated.

President Tayyip Erdogan said last week some 300 police officers and soldiers have died in the conflict since July.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans)