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New clashes in southeastern Turkey claim 15 lives

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkish special forces shoot with machine gun in Sirnak on December 22, 2015 during security operations against suspected Kurdish militants in the southeastern Turkey cities of Cizre and Silopi. (AFP photo)

Over a dozen people, including a Turkish soldier, have been killed in clashes in the volatile southeastern part of Turkey.

Clashes were reported on Tuesday in the flashpoint town of Cizre, in Sirnak Province, where demonstrations were held over curfews and restrictions on freedom of movement imposed by the Turkish government.

The sound of heavy gunfire and sporadic shelling echoed in the streets as police launched successive raids on the alleged positions of members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The Turkish military announced in a statement that at least 14 PKK members were killed in the southeast, saying that 12 of those were "neutralized" during a counter-terrorism operation in Cizre.

The statement said that a Turkish soldier and two PKK terrorists were also killed in an operation in Olek village in the southeastern province of Bitlis, according to the state-run Anadolu agency.

Heavy clashes were also reported in Silopi in Sirnak, where Turkish officials said PKK militants reportedly opened fire on civilians who tried to escape from the city.

Police also used water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters in the city of Diyarbakir.

Ankara has been engaged in a large-scale campaign against the PKK in its southern border region in the recent past. The Turkish military has also been conducting offensives against the positions of the PKK in northern Iraq.

The operations began in the wake of a deadly July 20 bombing in the southern Turkish town of Suruc. More than 30 people died in the attack, which the Turkish government blamed on Takfiri Daesh terrorist group. After the bombing, the PKK militants, who accuse the government in Ankara of supporting Daesh, engaged in a series of supposed reprisal attacks against Turkish police and security forces, in turn prompting the Turkish military operations.

Officials say 115 PKK militants have been killed since December 15. Most of the militants died in the towns of Cizre and Silopi, both under a 24-hour curfew.

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