Turkey's prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has announced that military operations against Kurdish rebels have ended in the town of Silopi. The military is still fighting militants linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in two other urban areas: Cizre and Diyarbakir's historic Sur neighbourhood.
Davutoglu said the operation in Silopi, near the border with Iraq, had ended "successfully" and that a 24-hour curfew has now been eased and reconstruction efforts will soon begin. Since December 2014, Silopi had been under a curfew that barred residents from leaving their homes. It also prevented journalists and observers from witnessing the fighting. The 24-hour curfew has now been replaced with a night-time curfew.
Families who had left Silopi to escape the fighting have begun returning to the town. Signs of extensive fighting are visible, with many shops and houses damaged. AFP photographer Ilyas Akengin visited the town as the curfew was lifted and photographed families surveying the ruins of their homes.
The army says it killed more than 500 PKK rebels in the campaign, adding to a death toll of more than 40,000 people killed since the PKK took up arms in 1984. A Turkish human rights group said as many as 162 civilians have died caught up in the fighting since August 2015 — 26 of them in Silopi. President Tayyip Erdogan said some 300 police officers and soldiers have died in the conflict since July 2015.
The PKK, which says it is fighting for autonomy for Turkey's Kurds, is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.
This article was first published on January 19, 2016