Turkish town residents return to dead donkeys after curfew lifted

Dargecit (Turkey) (AFP) –


Walking gingerly through streets littered with the rubble of damaged buildings and dead animals, residents of a mainly Kurdish town in southeastern Turkey started to return to their homes after a 19-day curfew was lifted.

Authorities imposed the curfew in Dargecit in the province of Mardin on December 11 to back up a large-scale military operation against suspected Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels in the southeast.

The curfew was implemented at a similar time to lockdowns in the towns of Silopi and Cizre in Sirnak province as well as the Sur district of the city of Diyarbakir which remain in place and have ignited controversy over the humanitarian cost of the measures.

Bodies of dead donkeys and other farm animals left a bloody trail on the streets of Dargecit and residents immediately set about removing the corpses, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

It was not immediately clear how they had been killed.

Other residents carefully walked through the muddy streets of the town, inspecting the burned out wrecks of cars or homes that had been partly destroyed.

Special police forces maintained a heavy presence while hundreds of people also attended the funeral in Dargecit of one man killed in the fighting.

The authorities have said that two tonnes of explosives and numerous weapons were seized during the curfew operation.

- 'Fear and terror' -

According to official media, at least 22 "terrorists" were killed.

The army says more than 200 PKK militants have been killed in the current campaign in the southeast which the government says is aimed at flushing out the Kurdish rebels from urban centres.

But the opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) argues that the main victims have been ordinary people.

It says 360 civilians, including 61 children and 73 women have been killed since the violence erupted this summer, shattering a truce after just two and a half years.

"Contrary to the claims of ensuring peace and security, the authorities create fear and terror among the people, recklessly kill civilians and destroy cultural heritage," the party said in a statement Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the authorities partially lifted the curfew in the Sur district of Diyarbakir, revealing streets where shopfronts were hidden from view by sandbag barricades erected during the fighting.

Spent bullets also littered the streets, which were eagerly gathered up by local children, the photographer said.