The Turkish military operation began Tuesday in southeastern Turkey
The military says 1 soldier died, says efforts will continue "until public security is established"
The PKK and Turkey's government have fought for decades; a ceasefire collapsed in July
Turkish troops have killed at least 68 members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – branded a terror group by Ankara and other governments – in an ongoing operation in the southeastern part of the country that won’t end “until public security is established,” Turkey’s military said Saturday.
In a statement issued to Turkey’s semiofficial Anadolu news agency, the armed forces said the operation launched Tuesday in Sirnak province aims “to neutralize the members of the separatist terrorist organization nesting in residential areas,” to “establish public order and security” and to “enable civilians to resume normal living conditions.”
The troops took action in the predominantly Kurdish towns of Cizre and Silopi, the latter being where 62 of the alleged Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) members died.
One Turkish solider was killed and 22 troops and police were wounded, a security official told Anadolu.
Over the last few months, Turkey’s government imposed curfews in areas where it says the PKK’s youth wing had set up barricade.
Ankara went a step further earlier this week, recalling teachers and closing schools for the operation’s duration.
The 30-year armed conflict between Turkey and the PKK – which the United States and the European Union also have designated a terrorist organization – has claimed an estimated 40,000 lives. A two-year ceasefire ended in July when a suicide bomb ripped through a group of activists in the southeastern town of Suruc as they were preparing to deliver aid to the Syrian town of Kobani.
The Turkish government said ISIS was responsible for the bombing. The PKK accused the Turkish government of colluding with the radical jihadist group, with its youth group killing two police officers in retaliation. Turkey’s military responded to that by bombing PKK strongholds in Iraq and Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu defended the government’s actions ahead of the armed operation, with Anadolu quoting him as saying, “We will not give in to terrorism.”
But Figen Yuksekdag, the co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), expressed concern then that recalling public school teachers signaled that the government was gearing up for a massacre.
The HDP has a largely progressive platform and is focused on the legal and rights struggle of the Kurds in Turkey. It has been a part of the peace talks between the PKK and the Turkish government but has come under strong criticism from the government for being pro-PKK. It is the No.2 opposition party and the first pro-Kurdish party in Turkey’s parliament.