Turkey counts cost of conflict as Kurdish militant battle rages on

Tue May 31, 2016 9:24am EDT
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By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's conflict with Kurdish militants, said to have killed more than 5,000 people since July, has also destroyed at least 6,000 buildings that will cost approaching 1 billion lira ($340 million) to rebuild, according to a government estimate.

Large swathes of towns in the mainly Kurdish southeast have been devastated by daily shelling, blasts and gunfire in battles that are still raging, even as President Tayyip Erdogan says the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is in its "death throes".

Turkish warplanes struck overnight at PKK gun positions and shelters in Semdinli by the border with Iraq and Iran, the army said. The fighting, at its most intense in two decades, resumed after a two-year-old ceasefire collapsed last July.

A day earlier, roadside bombs killed at least six people in two attacks on security forces in the southeast. Air strikes in northern Iraq's Metina area have killed 14 PKK fighters since last Wednesday, the army said.

As fighting continued, the government of new Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 6,320 buildings, or 11,000 dwellings, had been destroyed in five areas alone: Sur in Diyabakir, Silopi, Cizre and Idil in Sirnak province and Yuksekova in Hakkari.

"We now face a process of planning reconstruction and repairing damaged houses," Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said after a cabinet meeting on Monday, estimating the cost of rebuilding in the areas at 855 million lira ($290 million).

Lawmaker Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat of the pro-Kurdish HDP was dismissive of the reconstruction plans in ancient places like Sur and Cizre, where the "historic fabric had been wiped away".

"They are deluding themselves and trying to cover up their crimes," he told Reuters. "If they are think they can win over the local people like this they are wrong. The destruction of these towns has caused an emotional rupture."   Continued...

Buildings which were damaged during security operations and clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants are pictured in Sur district of Diyarbakir, Turkey February 29, 2016.  REUTERS/Sertac Kayar