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May 30, 6:59 AM EDT

Turkey rolls back curfew in Kurdish area, assesses damage


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ISTANBUL (AP) -- Turkish authorities on Monday partially lifted a curfew in Kurdish areas in southeast Turkey where military operations against Kurdish rebels have done extensive damage to housing.

Southeast Turkey has been the scene of intense fighting between security forces and rebels linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, since December. The Turkish government has promised to reconstruct all areas destroyed in the fighting.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Monday that 6,320 buildings have been damaged amid the fighting in five southeastern towns, affecting some 11,000 apartments. He put the estimated cost of demolishing and rebuilding the affected structures-- in the districts of Sur, Silopi, Cizre, Idil and Yuksekova-- at approximately 855 million Turkish lira ($289 million).

Meanwhile, the curfew was relaxed at 5 a.m. Monday in the Yuksekova district and a village in Hakkari province. A nighttime curfew, however, will remain from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., according to local officials. The curfew is to be loosened further during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, which this year begins in June.

Round-the-clock curfews have been slapped on southeast flashpoint areas for weeks to aid military operations. Human rights groups have repeatedly raised concerns over dozens of civilian casualties.

An estimated 500 Turkish security personnel have been killed in the operations against Kurdish rebels, according to the military, which claims to have killed 4,900 PKK terrorists in operations in Turkey and northern Iraq, where the PKK has a major bastion.

Limited access to conflict areas in the southeast has made it difficult to verify casualty tolls.

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