DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - A civilian shot by suspected Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey died from his wounds on Saturday, officials said, the latest casualty of the worst violence the region has seen in two decades.
Osman Saim Cetin, 66, had been wounded on Friday after assailants belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) opened fire on the restaurant where he was eating in Diyarbakir, the largely Kurdish southeast’s biggest city, security sources said. A waiter was also killed and three police officers wounded.
Meanwhile, in the town of Cizre, scene of intense clashes between the PKK and the Turkish army, residents ventured out to stock up on groceries and check on their shops after authorities lifted a nine-day round-the-clock curfew at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT), residents said.
Dozens of civilians have died, rights groups say, in the two months since the government began air strikes and ground operations against the PKK. More than 100 police and soldiers have died in attacks, and hundreds of rebels have been killed.
The government resumed strikes against the PKK in July, saying rebels were using a 2-1/2 year ceasefire to stock weapons and recruit new members. President Tayyip Erdogan has promised the fight will go on until “not one terrorist is left”.
He rejects criticism that breaking the ceasefire was an attempt to boost support for his AK Party (AKP), which failed to win enough votes in a June poll to form a government on its own, and to undermine the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which became the first pro-Kurdish party to enter parliament.
A new election is scheduled for Nov. 1 after the AKP was unable to find a coalition partner.
Armored vehicles prowled the streets of Cizre just north of the Syrian border and security forces set up checkpoints on the town’s outskirts. The HDP said 21 civilians were killed during the fight in Cizre, a town of more than 100,000 near the Iraqi and Syrian borders.
The government said one civilian and some 32 militants died.
“We suffered from hunger and thirst in our homes for eight days. It was like scenes from Iraq or Syria. We don’t deserve this,” said Haci, a laborer and father of three who spoke to Reuters by phone from Cizre. He did not want his last name to be published.
“We are caught in the crosshairs. We don’t know how many people died. People were unable to bury the dead.”
Meral Danis Bestas, an HDP lawmaker who visited Cizre on Saturday, told Reuters: “People are still unable to hold funerals, as bodies are at the morgue. It’s not possible to say that life has returned to normal. Food is scarce and so are medical services.”
Security forces had barred Bestas and some 30 other MPs who attempted to walk to Cizre to protest the violence. “This was the state at war with its own citizens ... People are traumatized, they spoke of their fear and anger,” she said.
Communications were restored on Saturday after the state suspended mobile-phone and internet services with the curfew. Long lines formed Cizre’s bakeries, and television footage showed bullet holes covering the facades of homes and the wreckage of vehicles strewn in the streets.
Additional reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul; Editing by David Holmes