ISTANBUL — Two Turkish soldiers were killed in clashes with Kurdish insurgents in the volatile southeast Monday as rights groups said nearly 2,000 people have died since fighting between the two sides resumed last year.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported that 157 “terrorists” belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, were killed or wounded in the latest offensive over the weekend meant to quash the outlawed group that has been waging a 30-year-war against the Turkish state. The governor’s office of Hakkari province said 12 soldiers were killed and 26 wounded in the same period.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim visited a military unit in Hakkari Sunday and outlined a “new roadmap for combatting terror.”
“We will not be in defense but offense,” Anadolu quoted him as saying.
The clashes between Turkish forces and the PKK have killed an estimated 40,000 people since 1984 and a fragile two-and-a-half year ceasefire collapsed last summer.
International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organization, tracked the deaths in the resumed conflict until the beginning of September. It said at least 1,958 people, including 676 state security force members, 733 PKK militants, 219 youth of unknown affiliation, and 330 civilians have been killed.
The group said at least 40 per cent of the victims died in the so-called “urban curfew zones.” According to the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, another non-governmental organization, there were “at least 111 officially confirmed, open-ended, and round-the-clock curfews” in districts of nine predominantly Kurdish provinces until August 2016.
Clashes in urban centers between security forces and militants have caused major destruction.
Diyarbakir’s Sur, a UNESCO world heritage site, has been one scene of the fighting, where thousands have been displaced and the historic district ruined.
On his Sunday visit to Diyarbakir, Yildirim said the government will invest 10 billion liras ($3.4 billion) in “areas damaged by terrorism,” including 1.9 billion liras in Sur alone. Yildirim visited the site to lay the first brick in a symbolic demonstration of redevelopment.