Turkish military kills 35 fighters as crackdown continues

Turkish troops have killed 35 Kurdish fighters, military officials said Saturday, following skirmishes that started in the country’s southeastern Hakkari province and an attempted takeover of a government military base.

Fighting between the two groups began Friday and escalated when soldiers from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) tried to take control of the base early Saturday, leading to the deaths of 27 PKK fighters.

Since the first attacks in 1984 by the PKK, a Marxist-Leninist group that seeks to establish an independent Kurdish state, the group’s battles with the Turkish government have left more than 40,000 people dead. When a two-and-a-half-year ceasefire between the PKK and government collapsed in July 2015, fierce fighting resumed, with the state military mobilizing fighter jets to pound Kurdish targets.

The recent violence between government forces and the PKK comes as the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cracks down on dissidents across the country in response to an attempted coup earlier this month.

The government has detained, arrested and fired thousands of members of the military, judiciary and education sector in recent weeks, with a focus on individuals it believes to be linked to the movement of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.

It has also attempted to shut down news outlets.

On Friday, 21 journalists appeared before a judge. Seventeen were charged with membership in a terrorist organization, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The government issued arrest warrants for at an additional 89 journalists this week and demanded the closure of 131 media organizations, the Guardian reported.

Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey director at Human Rights Watch, strongly rebuked the arrests of reporters. “In the absence of any evidence of their role or participation in the violent attempt to overthrow the government, we strongly condemn this accelerated assault on the media, which further undermines Turkey’s democratic credentials,” she said.