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Feb 11, 8:03 AM EST

Turkish military ends operations in Kurdish town of Cizre



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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkey's military on Thursday ended a "successful" operation to root out Kurdish militants from the southeastern town of Cizre, the country's interior minister said.

Efkan Ala said, however, that a 24-hour curfew that bars residents from leaving their homes and has prevented observers from entering Cizre, will remain in place for a while longer as the security forces continue to secure the town that is close to the borders with Syria and Iraq.

Turkey imposed curfews in Cizre and other mainly Kurdish towns and districts in December while its security forces battled militants linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, who set up barricades, dug trenches and primed explosives in the areas they have declared to be under Kurdish self-rule. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in the military operations.

"The operations in Cizre ended in a very successful manner," Ala said. "The curfew will continue for a while because there are booby traps, there could be land mines in some areas that could harm our people."

"It will take a while to fill in the trenches and remove the barricades, however, as of today ... control has been established over the area," he said.

At least 597 militants have been killed in Cizre, according to a military statement on Thursday.

Military operations and the curfew in the nearby town of Silopi ended last month after the government declared it to be cleared of the militants, but a large-scale operation is still underway in the historic Sur district in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the mostly Kurdish region.

The fighting between the security forces and the PKK, which wants autonomy for Kurds, flared anew in July, shattering a fragile peace process. More than 40,000 people have died in the three-decade-long conflict.

The Turkish Human Rights Foundation says at least 224 civilians, including 42 children, have died in the combat areas under curfew since August. Government officials say more than 200 security force members have died since July.

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