Residents return to battered Turkey town as curfew lifted

AFP , Wednesday 2 Mar 2016

Turkey Kurds
Militants from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, run as they attack Turkish security forces in Nusaydin, Turkey, Tuesday, March 1, 2016 (Photo: AP)

Thousands in Turkey's Kurdish-majority town of Cizre started returning to their homes Wednesday after authorities partially lifted a curfew in place since December for a controversial military operation to root out separatist rebels.

The regional governor's office announced Tuesday that the curfew -- in place since December 14 -- would be lifted each day from 5:00am (0300 GMT) to 7:30pm (1730 GMT) and would be in force from 7:30pm to 5:00am in the southeastern town.

Thousands of residents carrying their belongings formed long queues at the entrance of the town where checkpoints had been put up, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

Many houses sustained serious damage, even visible from the entrance of Cizre. Some houses were burned and shops destroyed.

People are trying to recover their belongings from the rubble and checking if there are any corpses, the correspondent reported. In normal times, Cizre is home to some 100,000 people.

Turkish authorities barred access to the town, which lies near the border with Syria and Iraq, in mid December as the army launched a relentless offensive to root out rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The PKK, designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its Western allies, has killed dozens of members of the Turkish security forces in bomb and gunfire attacks since a fragile truce collapsed in July.

The Turkish army says 666 PKK "terrorists" have been killed in the operation but Kurdish activists ridicule this figure and say innocent civilians have also lost their lives.

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