By Seyhmus Cakan
Turkish authorities declared a curfew in the south-eastern town of Silopi on Tuesday after Kurdish militants rocketed an armoured police vehicle, killing one officer and wounding four, security sources said.
Witnesses said gunfire rang out in the town, near the Iraqi border, through the night while clashes erupted elsewhere in the mainly Kurdish south-east, which is suffering the worst violence in two decades.
The fighting is a major challenge for Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who has been promoting a controversial redevelopment plan for the region on trips there, and visited Silopi last month.
Pro-Kurdish politicians say Ankara should instead focus on reviving peace talks launched with Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in late 2012.
But President Tayyip Erdogan ruled out such a move on Monday, vowing to stamp out the insurgency.
In Silopi, local authorities declared a curfew from 4:30 am (0130 GMT) in an announcement delivered by loudspeaker from minarets and police vehicles, witnesses said.
In the town of Nusaybin near the Syrian border, which has been under curfew for three weeks, a PKK rocket attack killed an army major and another officer on Monday, security sources said.
They also said two police officers were wounded in a bomb attack on their armoured vehicle on Monday in Lice, near the region’s largest city, Diyarbakir.
Erdogan said last week that, since July, 355 members of the security forces had been killed and 5,359 militants ‘neutralised’, a term usually meaning ‘killed’.
According to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TIHV), at least 310 civilians have been killed in the conflict during the various curfews imposed in parts of the region between August and mid-March.
It said 355,000 people had had to leave their homes as a result of the fighting, which has caused extensive damage in towns such as Cizre, Silopi, Nusaybin and Diyarbakir’s Sur district, surrounded by UNESCO-listed Roman-era walls.
During a visit to Sur last week, Davutoglu unveiled a video depicting lavish plans for the redevelopment of Sur, drawing criticism from pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtas for focusing only on reconstruction.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the PKK took up arms in 1984. The group, which says it is fighting for autonomy for Kurds, is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.