Reuters International

By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's conflict with Kurdish militants, said to have left more than 5,000 people dead since July, has also destroyed at least 6,000 buildings that will cost approaching 1 billion lira (232.22 million pound) to rebuild, according to a government estimate.

Large swathes of towns in the mainly Kurdish southeast have been devastated by daily shelling, blasts and gunfire in battles that are still raging, even as President Tayyip Erdogan says the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is in its "death throes".

Turkish warplanes struck overnight at PKK gun positions and shelters in Semdinli by the mountainous border with Iraq and Iran, the army said. One soldier was killed and one wounded in a subsequent firefight in the area.

A day earlier, roadside bombs killed at least six people in two attacks on security forces in the southeast. Air strikes in northern Iraq's Metina area have killed 14 PKK fighters since last Wednesday, the army said.

The fighting, at its most intense in two decades, resumed after a two-year-old ceasefire collapsed last July.

As fighting continued, the government of new Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 6,320 buildings, or 11,000 dwellings, had been destroyed in five areas alone: Sur in Diyabakir, Silopi, Cizre and Idil in Sirnak province and Yuksekova in Hakkari.

"We now face a process of planning reconstruction and repairing damaged houses," Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said after a cabinet meeting on Monday, estimating the cost of rebuilding in the areas at 855 million lira ($290 million).

Speaking after a ruling AKP meeting late on Monday, party spokesman Yasin Aktay told reporters Turkey faced "a period of social restoration to deal with the side effects of operations".

Some 338 civilians, including 78 children, have died in the conflict since last summer, and curfews have violated the rights 1.6 million people, Turkey's Human Rights Foundation said.

The health minister has estimated some 355,000 people have fled conflict-hit areas to other areas of Turkey.

"These are the last throes of the separatist terror group. These are also the last throes of their extensions," Erdogan told a crowd waving Turkish flags and chanting "damn the PKK" in the Aegean coastal city of Izmir overnight.

According to military sources, 5,000 PKK militants have been killed since the conflict resumed in July, around half in southeast Turkey and half in northern Iraq, where the PKK has bases. They put the death toll for Turkish security forces at around 500.

The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies, launched its insurgency in 1984 and more than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

(Writing by Daren Butler, editing by Larry King)


 Reuters International