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HRW: Turkey Must Investigate Civilian Deaths in PKK Campaign

FILE - People walk inside their damaged house in the Sur district in Diyarbakir, Turkey, Dec. 11, 2015.

Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that Turkey needs to control its security forces and investigate the deaths of civilians who were killed during police operations and clashes with armed groups in recent months.

The group said it documented 15 such deaths in a limited investigation and that local groups report more than 100 deaths since July.

Turkish forces launched a new offensive in July against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey, a move that ended a cease-fire of more than two years. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan further pledged in November to continue until every one of the militants was defeated.

Human Rights Watch said the state had put neighborhoods under curfew and cut off people's access to water, electricity and food.

"The Turkish government should rein in its security forces, immediately stop abusive and disproportionate use of force, and investigate the deaths and injuries caused by its operations," HRW senior Turkey researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb said. "To ignore or cover up what's happening to the region's Kurdish population would only confirm the widely held belief in the southeast that when it comes to police and military operations against Kurdish armed groups, there are no limits -- there is no law."

The group also called on Kurdish armed groups to stop digging trenches, planting explosive and putting up barricades. It said those actions, and those of the government security forces, prevent medical personnel from reaching those who have been wounded.

HRW said that while Turkey has a right to defend itself from armed groups, the police and military have to ensure their operations respect the lives of those living in the affected areas.

Turkey, the United States and European Union all consider the PKK to be a terror group. The conflict between Turkey and the PKK has left 40,000 people dead since 1984.