Army: 279 PKK militants killed in Sur operation

Army: 279 PKK militants killed in Sur operation

Army: 279 PKK militants killed in Sur operation

Turkish soldiers prepare themselves for military action during a curfew on February 26, 2016 at Diyarbakır's historical Sur district, eastern Turkey. AFP Photo

Some 279 militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have been killed in large-scale counterterrorism operations in the southeastern town of Sur since late December last year, the Turkish Army has claimed.

“Some 279 members of the separatist terrorist organization have been killed, 206 barricades have been removed and 365 improvised explosive devices (IED) have been deactivated during the operation in Sur,” the Turkish General Staff said in a written statement on March 10, using a euphemism for the PKK.

“Some 504 weapons and 48,048 of their shells; 10 radios and 3,470 kilograms of material used in making IED [were also seized],” added the army, recalling that counterterrorism operation that started on Dec. 18, 2015, in Sur, a district in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, ended on March 9.

The army said patrols, searches and check raids were still continuing in Sur to fill trenches and remove barricades that were created by PKK militants in the southeastern town, which have seen a blanket curfew since late December 2015 after prominent Kurdish-origin Turkish lawyer and human rights activist Tahir Elçi was shot dead during clashes that erupted after gunmen opened fire at a police post in Sur on Nov. 28, 2015.

Turkey has recently conducted sweeping ground operations targeting the PKK in the southeast, with local governors imposing curfews in several towns to remove militants from the area as well as to remove barricades and trenches created by the militants.

A round-the-clock curfew went into effect in downtown Sur and starting from Dec. 2, 2015. The large-scale counterterrorism operation then started in the town on Dec. 18, continuing for 103 days.

PKK militants early on March 10 opened fire when a committee, including Diyarbakır Police Department head Adnan Taşdan and deputy governors, was on duty, conducting an inspection in Sur following the end of the military operation, daily Hürriyet reported on March 10.

Four militants were killed as Turkish security forces immediately responded with fire to the gunfire. Three other militants from the outlawed organization were also killed in a counterterrorism raid conducted due to the offensive.

Doğan News Agency reported on March 10 that Turkish military troops started to leave the southeastern town in groups and armored vehicles were seen heading to their military headquarters along major thoroughfare Gazi Street as the 103-day counterterrorism operation ended.

Clashes were reported to still be fierce in Sur’s Cemal Yılmaz, Savaş and Hasırlı neighborhoods and security forces continue to deactivate bombs and explosives planted in the three neighborhoods. 

The army’s statement came two days after 19 PKK militants were killed in another southeastern town nearby following the end of the military campaign that targeted the outlawed organization.

Doğan News Agency reported that 19 militants were killed in İdil, a district in the southeastern province of Şırnak, on March 8, when Turkish security forces conducted multiple raids. 

Senior militant leaders were reportedly among those killed during the raids, as well as five snipers. Security forces also found documents showing suicide bomb training and sniper training during the operations.

Abdullah Ecevit, the İdil-based leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) with the nickname “Adnan,” a militant leader based in the Turgut Özal neighborhood with the nickname “Kendal,” and an İdil-based field inspector of the militant group with the nickname “Reşit” were among those killed.