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Turkey to boost southeast security amid clashes with Kurds

Associated Press Associated Press 2/09/2016 By ZEYNEP BILGINSOY, Associated Press

ISTANBUL — Clashes between Turkish forces and Kurdish militants left one Turkish soldier and dozens of militants dead Friday as Turkey's prime minister announced new security measures and reconstruction plans for the southeast.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said Turkish Armed Forces "neutralized 57 terrorists, including 27 killed." Turkey, EU, and the U.S. consider the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or the PKK, a terrorist organization.

The governor's office of Hakkari province said one Turkish soldier was killed and six others were wounded.

In a televized government evaluation meeting in Ankara, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said there will be no peace negotiations with Kurdish militants or the PKK and the government will not capitulate on internal security.

"The solution is with the people," he said and added "our Kurdish people have a PKK terror organization problem."

Yildirim announced a "watchman system in neighborhoods and in markets" and the extension of a village guard system in eastern and southeastern Turkey to assist security forces in fighting the PKK.

The village guards are civilians who are paid by the government to keep an eye out, inform security forces, and take precautions against attacks on public and private institutions. They have been criticized by human rights groups and Kurdish lawmakers for functioning as armed informants and for alleged involvement in violence against villagers.

Yildirim announced an initial 1.4 billion lira ($460 million) redevelopment plan for houses damaged during security operations to be completed within a year. He also said new development projects for 22 eastern and southeastern provinces will be introduced when he visits the southeastern city of Diyarbakir on Sunday.

The three-decade long conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and a fragile two and a half year ceasefire collapsed last summer. Since then, more than 600 Turkish security personnel and thousands of PKK militants have been killed, according to Anadolu. Rights groups say hundreds of civilians have also been killed in the clashes.

Last week, Turkey sent tanks across the Syrian border to fight the Islamic State group and to halt the advance of Syrian Kurdish groups affiliated with the PKK.

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