Turkish military says killed 27 Kurdish militants in southeast

Buildings which were damaged during the security operations and clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants, are pictured in Sur district of Diyarbakir, Turkey February 11, 2016. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish security forces have killed 27 militants in the mainly Kurdish southeast, the army said on Friday, a day after the interior minister said security operations had finished in the town of Cizre where the conflict has been focused.

The army said 16 fighters of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) had been killed in Cizre, near the Syrian border. It said it had retrieved the bodies of another 24 militants killed earlier, along with rifles, machines guns and rocket launchers.

Another five PKK guerrillas were killed on Thursday in the Sur district of the region’s largest city, Diyarbakir, and six in Hakkari province near the Iraqi border, the army said.

Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Ala said on Thursday that security forces had completed their operations against militants in Cizre after weeks of fighting, raising hopes that a lockdown could be lifted.

More than 800 militants have been killed in Cizre and Sur since they were placed under a round-the-clock curfew in December, the army said.

The pro-Kurdish HDP, the biggest party in the region, says 128 civilians have been killed during the curfews.

Authorities imposed the curfews in a bid to root out armed PKK militants who had dug trenches and erected barricades. The violence has forced thousands of local residents to flee.

A ceasefire with the PKK collapsed in July, wrecking a 2-1/2 year peace process that had been seen as Turkey’s best chance at ending three decades of strife in the restive southeast.

About 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, have died since the PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984.

Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan and Gareth Jones