DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkish security forces killed more than 10 suspected Kurdish militants amid intensifying clashes in the country’s southeast, while 44 people were arrested in Istanbul on suspicion of links with the rebels, officials and media reports said.
The exact death toll from clashes in Silvan, a town in southeastern Turkey’s Diyarbakir province, was not immediately clear. A security source said it exceeded 10 people - all members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Turkey’s crackdown on the PKK began in July after a 2 1/2-year-old ceasefire collapsed and has escalated ahead of a snap national election on Nov. 1. More than 120 security personnel and hundreds of militants have been killed.
Among those detained on Friday were district officials of the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP), a left-wing grouping accused of having links with the hardline PKK, Hurriyet newspaper said. An HDP spokesman had no immediate information on the arrests, and there was also no comment from Turkish police.
The HDP on Friday presented its election platform in which it renewed a promise to seek a settlement to the 31-year war with the PKK. “Despite everything, we say peace,” HDP Co-Chairwoman Figen Yuksekdag said. “We want a grand peace.”
HDP district officials have been detained in previous police raids in the predominantly Kurdish southeast. The HDP accuses the government of seeking to punish it for its success in the inconclusive June election that deprived the ruling Islamist-rooted AKP of its single-party majority in parliament.
Opinion polls show the AKP may at the Nov. 1 election regain some nationalist voters who abandoned the party over its efforts to end the strife with the PKK, including negotiating with the group’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan. Whether the AKP will win enough seats to regain a majority remains debatable as poll results have differed.
Among the 44 people arrested were union members and former district mayors, Turkish media reported.
Authorities imposed a 24-hour curfew on Silvan, where two soldiers were shot dead by suspected PKK militants on Thursday as they left for work. The army has repeatedly clashed with the rebels in Silvan in recent weeks.
Deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and European Union, the PKK launched its armed campaign for a Kurdish homeland in southeastern Turkey in 1984. The conflict has cost more than 40,000 lives.
Reporting by Seyhmus Cakan in Diyarbakir, Ercan Gurses in Ankara and Humeyra Pamuk in Istanbul; Writing by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Jonny Hogg and Mark Heinrich