DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkey lifted a 36-hour curfew in two districts of Diyarbakir, the largest city in the mainly Kurdish southeast, on Monday after an apparent lull in violence between militants and security forces.
The Sur and Silvan districts had been under curfew while police had imposed tight security elsewhere in the city, firing tear gas at small groups of youths protesting overnight, local witnesses said.
“As a result of the work carried out in Sur district, the curfew has been lifted as of Monday 1700. We thank our citizens for their sensitivity about the curfew,” the Diyarbakir governor’s office said in a statement. In a separate statement, it said a curfew in Silvan was also lifted.
It did not give details on the operations carried out.
More than 100 police and soldiers have been killed, along with hundreds of Kurdish militants, since a ceasefire collapsed in July, shattering a peace process launched in 2012. It is the worst violence NATO member Turkey has seen in two decades, coinciding with heavy fighting across the border in Syria involving government troops and Islamic State and other rebels.
The curfew had been introduced due to attacks on public buildings, roadblocks and sabotage by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the governor said. Security sources said seven police officers were wounded in clashes there on Sunday.
On Sunday night, armoured vehicles guarded the entrance to the Sur district, which is surrounded by imposing Byzantine-era city walls, while some locals left the area to stay with relatives elsewhere in the city, the witnesses said.
On Sunday, the militants killed two police officers in a car bomb attack on a checkpoint in the southeast’s Sirnak province, triggering a helicopter-backed military operation in which six PKK fighters were killed.
The PKK began its separatist insurgency in 1984, triggering a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people. The group, which says it is now fighting for greater Kurdish autonomy, is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
But Washington is backing Syrian Kurdish groups in fighting Islamic State in Syria, stirring Turkish fears of the emergence of a pan-Kurdish coalition seeking to form a Kurdish state on Syrian, Iraqi and Turkish territory.
President Tayyip Erdogan has promised the fight will go on until “not one terrorist is left”. The conflict has flared up as Turkey prepares for a parliamentary election on Nov. 1 following an inconclusive June vote.
The southeastern town of Cizre near Turkey’s borders with Iraq and Syria - where dozens of people have been killed in clashes between Kurdish militants and security forces - has been under a round-the-clock curfew for most of the last ten days, although the curfew was lifted on Monday morning.
Reporting by Seyhmus Cakan; Writing by Daren Butler and Ece Toksabay; Editing by David Dolan and Ralph Boulton