DIYARBAKIR (Reuters) - Three Kurdish rebels were killed in clashes with police in Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir on Thursday, security sources said, and shots and shellfire could be heard around an area that has been focus of an army offensive against rebels.
Turkish police fired tear gas and sprayed water on hundreds of people after they attempted to march toward the city center carrying the coffin of two Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants killed in another incident this week.
The three were killed in clashes with special forces in Diyarbakir’s Yenisehir district after the PKK launched an attack on security forces, security sources said.
Four mainly Kurdish southeastern towns that have seen heavy fighting since Turkey launched an offensive 10 days ago against the militants remained under curfew, with Diyarbakir’s historic district of Sur entering its 21th day under the ban.
Figures from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) show at least 31 civilians have been killed in fighting, while state media said 168 PKK militants were killed during the campaign, backed by tanks and thousands of troops.
Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast has been engulfed in clashes since a two-year ceasefire between the PKK and Ankara fell apart in July, reviving a conflict that has crippled the region for three decades, killing more than 40,000 people.
This time the PKK has shifted fighting from its traditional countryside bases to towns and cities, setting up barricades and digging trenches to keep security forces away, in a battle in which civilians have also become targets.
In the southeastern town of Cizre bordering Iraq, people sat in winter sunshine while gunfire and shelling rang out from Turkish tanks pounding PKK targets inside the city. Bags of rubbish piled up on the street and children played, hopping on the barricades, Reuters TV footage showed.
Residents, banned from leaving their houses for the past 10 days in Cizre, came out to buy from street vendors.
The renewed Kurdish insurgency has aroused deep concern with Turkish leaders who see the rise of Syrian Kurdish groups backed by the United States in fighting Islamic State. Some fear the emergence from chaos in the area of a contiguous Kurdish state occupying Turkish, Iraqi and Syrian territory.
In the southeastern town of Dargecit inside Mardin province bordering Syria, PKK militants carried out an attack late on Wednesday on a civilian house, killing two people and wounding two others, Hurriyet newspaper reported. The house belonged to relatives of ruling AK Party members, the paper said.
The PKK, which launched its insurgency in 1984, is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Ece Toksabay and Ralph Boulton