Residents fleeing in droves amid clashes in Turkish Kurdish city

The mostly Kurdish city of Cizre in south-eastern Turkey has seen its population drop from 120,000 people to less than 20,000, a senior official said Monday, amid intense ongoing fighting between militants and government forces.

"From 120,000 people, there are not even 20,000 people left in Cizre," Faysal Sariyildiz, a member of parliament living in the city told dpa by telephone.

"What happens here qualifies as a crime against humanity," said Sariyildiz, who belongs to the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).

The military says it has killed more than 700 members of the armed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the last six weeks in just three districts of the south-east, all in Sirnak and Diyarbakir provinces. In Cizre alone, security forces say they have killed 452.

More than 100 civilians have also been killed in the two provinces, Kurdish officials have reported. Sariyildiz said 75 civilians have been killed in Cizre alone.

Footage released from Cizre has shown widespread damage to buildings and roads.

Sariyildiz said there were 30 injured people trapped in their homes who were unable to get medical care.

In addition to those who have fled Cizre, Silopi district in Sirnak has also seen tens of thousands of people flee their homes, with only a fraction remaining in the city.

Human rights groups have been critical of Turkish actions in the south-east, with Amnesty International accusing the government of "collective punishment."

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has urged Turkey and the PKK to agree to an "immediate ceasefire" in the south-east and return to talks. She also condemned PKK attacks.

However, Turkey's leadership, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said there will never again be peace talks with the PKK and that fighting against the militants will continue until they give up their arms and leave the country.

A ceasefire between the government and the PKK lasted for more than two years, but broke down in July after peace talks stagnated.

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

Last update: Mon, 25/01/2016 - 17:53
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