January 15, 2015 / 9:55 AM / in 3 years

Twelve-year-old shot dead in Turkey's Kurdish southeast

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - A 12-year-old boy was shot dead in Cizre in southeast Turkey on Wednesday, the sixth person to be killed in the largely Kurdish town in the last three weeks, security sources said.

Local witnesses said police teams were traveling through the area at the time he was shot. However, Interior Minister Efkan Ala told broadcaster Haberturk that police had not fired guns or tear gas and said an investigation had been launched.

The spate of killings risk undermining confidence in a two-year-old peace process between the government and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a militant group that has waged a three-decade insurgency in pursuit of autonomy for Turkey's Kurds.

The security sources said Nihat Kazanhan suffered a head wound and died in hospital in Cizre, a town near Turkey's Syrian and Iraqi borders and the scene of recent unrest involving security forces, PKK sympathizers and rival Islamist Kurds.

A delegation from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) visited Cizre on Wednesday in a bid to put an end to recent unrest, and Kazanhan's shooting occurred after an HDP deputy had addressed a crowd in the town.

In October, dozens were killed during unrest in the region fueled by rage among Kurds at what they saw as the government's failure to help Syrian Kurds fighting Islamic State militants in the besieged Syrian border town of Kobani.

The violence has complicated efforts to end the PKK's conflict with the state, in which more than 40,000 people have been killed. The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and European Union.

Reporting by Seyhmus Cakan; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Crispian Balmer

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