SILVAN, Turkey (Reuters) - Three Turkish soldiers were killed on Friday in the mainly Kurdish southeast of the country, the latest casualties in a tide of violence engulfing the region since the breakdown of a ceasefire between security forces and militants in July.
Two of the soldiers died when their vehicle hit a buried explosive in the town of Lice, the military said in a statement.
A third was killed and three more wounded in clashes in the Ercis district of Van province during a dawn operation by security forces acting on a tip-off that militants were holed up in a house, the military said on its website.
Authorities also said security forces had killed 11 militants of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on Thursday in clashes in the towns of Cizre and Silopi, near Turkey’s borders with Syria and Iraq.
A round-the-clock curfew remained in force in three districts of the town of Silvan for an 11th day, even after security regained full control of the areas after operations targeted PKK rebels, security sources said.
On Thursday, police fired tear gas in Silvan at a group of lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic (HDP), who wanted to enter the districts under police lockdown amid concerns over food shortages.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu dismissed criticism of the operations, saying all ”humanitarian measures“ were in place and vowing to continue the operation until ”every street is safe.
“We are taking precautions to make sure this operation would be completed as soon as possible. Important progress has been made,” he told reporters in Ankara. “God willing, there will be a return to normal life.”
Residents had completely deserted those parts of Silvan, where apartment blocks were covered in bullet holes. Blood was splattered across the facade of one bullet-riddled building.
Streets had been dug up by members of the PKK’s armed youth wing and water supplies were cut, officials said. Security forces were continuing their searches and defused 22 bomb-laden booby traps, they added.
Video footage shot on Thursday in Silvan showed troops armed with automatic rifles, their faces concealed by black scarves, advancing along empty streets and inside damaged school buildings apparently used by militants. Armored vehicles were deployed on a hill overlooking the town, the video showed.
The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984, and more than 40,000 people, mostly Kurdish militants, have died in the conflict. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and European Union.
Writing by Daren Butler, Humeyra Pamuk and Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Gareth Jones