5 Killed in Clashes between Turkish Forces, Kurdish Fighters

Sat Aug 8, 2015 16:29:17

Five people were killed in eastern Turkey Friday in a series of clashes between security forces and Kurdish militants, part of a surge in violence that has put further strain on a fragile peace process between Ankara and the rebels.

Three people were killed and seven wounded during clashes between police and militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the town of Silopi in Sirnak province, close to Turkey’s borders with Syria and Iraq, authorities said, according to a report by Daily Star on Saturday.

In two other separate incidents in Van and Agri provinces, the militants killed two soldiers, bringing the death toll among Turkish security forces since July 20 to at least 21.

Violence has swept eastern Turkey since last month when the outlawed PKK ramped up attacks on security forces and Ankara launched reciprocal airstrikes against the militants in Turkey and northern Iraq.

The provincial governor’s office in Silopi said PKK militants had dug trenches and erected barricades across the town and then attacked security forces with rockets, handmade explosives and rifles.

The statement said a 17-year-old youth and a 58-year-old man were among those killed and that operations were still continuing.

Sporadic gunfire rang out and smoke billowed into the sky, Reuters TV footage showed. Armored jeeps and water cannon vehicles patrolled the streets as masked youths looked on from street corners.

A lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, Faysal Sariyildiz, told reporters the casualties were civilians and that he had seen no sign of armed militants, contradicting official accounts.

Hundreds of police backed up by armored vehicles had tried to enter the town and had opened fire on local people, he said.

Violence has worsened since Turkey began an air campaign against PKK camps in northern Iraq on July 24, in what Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called a “synchronized fight against terror.” Turkish jets have also hit ISIL positions in Syria and Ankara has allowed the US-led coalition targeting ISIL to use its air bases to launch further raids.

Legislators from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party Friday said eight Iraqi civilians were killed in Turkish airstrikes in north Iraq last week, disputing the Turkish military’s claim that the area struck was a Kurdish rebel camp.

Returning from a fact-finding mission in north Iraq, the legislators told reporters that Turkish raids on Aug. 1 struck the town of Zargel, injuring at least 27 civilians. Six homes were totally destroyed and other buildings, including a mosque, were damaged.

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