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UN deplores Turkish military abuses

Do Not UseDo Not Use 10/05/2016
Turkish army outside Cizre - 22 Mar 16 © AFP Turkish army outside Cizre - 22 Mar 16

A top UN official has voiced alarm about violence against civilians by Turkish government forces in Kurdish-majority south-eastern Turkey.

map © BBC map

The UN says it has reports that more than 100 people were burned to death while sheltering in basements in Cizre.

PKK fighters in Nusaydin, 1 Mar 16: PKK militants in Nusaydin during a clash with security forces (1 Mar 16) © AP PKK militants in Nusaydin during a clash with security forces (1 Mar 16)

UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Raad al-Hussein urged Turkey to grant the UN unimpeded access to the affected areas.

Turkish soldier and civilian in Diyarbakir, 17 Mar 16: Turkish security forces are fighting the PKK in some densely populated areas © AFP Turkish security forces are fighting the PKK in some densely populated areas

As the report came out, Kurdish rebels were blamed for a bombing that left three people dead and 45 injured.

The car bomb attack targeted a police bus in the Baglar district of Diyarbakir, Turkish media reported, quoting local officials.

No-one admitted carrying out the bombing but the authorities say it was the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) - outlawed in Turkey as a "terrorist" group.

Earlier this year Turkey imposed curfews on Cizre and other parts of the troubled south-east, as its security forces battled PKK fighters there.

The UN commissioner said there were accounts of unarmed civilians, including women and children, being shot by snipers in south-eastern Turkey during the crackdown. Government forces also caused huge damage to the local infrastructure, he said.

"It is essential that the authorities respect human rights at all times while undertaking security or counter-terrorism operations," Mr Hussein said.

"In 2016, to have such a lack of information about what is happening in such a large and geographically accessible area is both extraordinary and deeply worrying."

Since a ceasefire broke down 10 months ago, military operations in the south-east and PKK retaliatory attacks have left hundreds dead.

The Turkish government has not yet allowed a UN team into the area and rejects accusations that it targeted civilians, the BBC's Mark Lowen reports from Istanbul.

Separately, US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch said that in the past two months there had been cases of Turkish border guards shooting and beating Syrian asylum seekers and smugglers.

The guards killed five people in those incidents, according to an HRW investigation.

Turkey is already housing 2.7 million Syrians and says it is official policy to allow Syrian refugees to enter the country.

The Ankara government says its offensive against PKK rebels is making good progress. But there is every sign that this is becoming a long, drawn-out and devastating armed conflict, our correspondent says.

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