Turkish security forces killed eight Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants as the army launched major operations backed by curfews against the rebels in the troubled southeast, the military said Wednesday.
In the latest escalation of a five-month campaign against the outlawed PKK, the security forces pursued rebels in the southeastern towns of Cizre and Silopi supported by helicopters and tanks.
The authorities also imposed blanket and open-ended curfews in the two towns, the latest in a succession of such measures across the southeast that have angered activists.
Eight militants were "neutralised" after they opened fire on soldiers during the operations in Cizre on Tuesday, the army said, using its customary euphemism for killing rebels.
Some 10,000 soldiers were involved in the operations in the towns, both in the southeastern Sirnak province.
Pro-Kurdish media claimed a 11-year-old boy had also been killed in the army operation in Cizre. These reports could not be independently verified.
Ferhat Encu, a lawmaker from pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), shared on Twitter a video showing the MP arguing with soldiers as they went house-to-house.
"We are talking about thugs who stormed our building and broke down the doors of our houses one by one," he wrote.
- 'Wipe out the terrorists' -
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Sporadic gunfire and explosions rang out in several areas as huge plumes of smoke were seen rising above the towns, witnesses in Cizre and Silopi told AFP by phone.
Meanwhile, Turkish security forces discovered a massive cave in the eastern region of Igdir it said was used by the PKK militants and stuffed with hundreds of kilogrammes of vegetables and other food staples such as rice and pasta, the army said in a separate statement.
The Turkish government has been waging a relentless offensive aimed at crippling the rebel PKK, which has staged a string of attacks against security forces in Turkey since a two-year-old ceasefire fell apart in late July.
Violence flared amid growing anger over the imposition of curfews that last for days in towns in southeastern Turkey as the security forces battle Kurdish militants who have set up barricades and dug trenches in urban centres.
On Tuesday, three Turkish police officers were killed in a roadside bomb attack on their vehicle blamed on Kurdish rebels in Diyarbakir.
The attack came after two Kurds were shot dead on Monday in violent clashes that erupted over a curfew in the Sur district of southeastern Diyarbakir province that has been in place almost uninterrupted since December 2.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed to press ahead with anti-PKK operations, saying the security forces would pursue the Kurdish militants "neighbourhood by neighbourhood, house by house, street by street."
"Our struggle in Sur, Cizre and Silopi will continue until terrorist elements have been wiped out from every corner of our beautiful homeland," he said Wednesday in an address to the relatives of slain soldiers.
According to the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, a total of 52 curfews have been imposed since mid-August in 17 districts in southeastern and eastern Turkey, affecting some 13 million people.