Turkey Declares Curfew in Southeastern Town as PKK Attacks Surge

Turkish authorities declared an open-ended curfew in the southeastern town of Varto on Sunday, the first such restriction since clashes with autonomy-seeking Kurdish militants flared last month.

The curfew was imposed at 8:30 a.m. after the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, destroyed a bridge at the town’s entrance late Saturday. The militant group has expanded its fight from rugged mountains to towns and cities in the southeast, and more than 150 people, including 13 civilians, have died in clashes since early July.

“The PKK terrorist organization has planted several mines and booby traps in the center of town of Varto since Aug. 15,” the governor’s office in the provincial center of Mus said in a statement on its website. “A curfew has been declared in Varto until further notice to allow us to defuse these explosives and safeguard our people and property.”

The date has resonance as the 31st anniversary of the group’s first armed assault.

Tensions between the government and minority Kurds escalated after the pro-Kurdish HDP party won seats in parliament for the first time, stripping the ruling AK Party of its majority to govern alone. Turkey is now headed to a second general election within six months after coalition talks collapsed last week.

The government accused HDP of ties to the PKK and ordered airstrikes against militant hideouts in Turkey and neighboring Iraq in response to attacks on soldiers and policemen. The search for a peaceful solution to the conflict, undertaken by the government three years ago, has been suspended amid growing nationalist backlash.

The PKK took up arms for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast in 1984. The fighting has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, according to government figures.