Death toll mounts in Turkey as rights group warns on civilians

At least 24 people are injured and trapped in a house, unable to receive medical care, amid clashes in Turkey's south-eastern Cizre district, the country's main pro-Kurdish party said Wednesday.

The people have been trapped for five days and several have died, according to sources in the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in the area.

"They must withdraw and the ambulances be sent in to collect the wounded," Faysal Sariyildaz, a local HDP deputy told the Firat news agency.

The example highlights the plight people are facing in the increasingly battle-scarred region, the party said.

Kurdish officials said this week that Cizre's population was 120,000 prior to the escalation of violence, but about 100,000 people have since fled.

The military said 465 militants have been killed in the town since December. The government is employing heavy weapons and armoured vehicles in the fighting against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its offshoots.

Meanwhile, the civilian death toll in clashes between government forces and Kurdish militants has gone up to 168 since July in the three most violence-prone districts, HDP said.

Since December, the districts have also been facing tough curfews, which have been criticized by human rights groups as "collective punishment."

In total, the army says it has killed 744 militants in Cizre, Silopi and Sur districts in the past six weeks, though the armed PKK has said the figure is far lower, without specifying, the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency reported.

The security forces, meanwhile, announced three soldiers and a police officer also died in the last day.

The information about the number of dead cannot be independently verified.

"The situation in the south-east has a fog over it, in which you literally cannot know the circumstance of fighting going on in city centres," said Emma Sinclair-Webb, the Turkey researcher for Human Rights Watch.

"We do not see in the picture presented by the government any sign of civilian suffering," she said, adding that there was a "denial of the civilian population being victims of this terrible, declining situation."

Ibrahim Kalim, a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that the "state has to take measures" against militants digging trenches in the south-east.

A two-year ceasefire between the PKK and the state collapsed in July, after peace talks stagnated. The government has said it will not relaunch talks with the PKK.

The war in the south-east has lasted for more than three decades and has left more than 40,000 people dead.

Last update: Wed, 27/01/2016 - 17:39
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