Turkey is conducting the largest military operations in its history against Kurdish fighters in the southeast of the country, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.
His statement on Thursday came as the government suspended thousands of teachers over suspected links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the army reportedly killed scores of PKK fighters.
Erdogan said in a speech to provincial governors in Ankara that the operations targeting civil servants with links to the PKK was a key element of the fight against the armed group.
“We will be removing civil servants with links to the PKK,” he said.
The Turkish military said on Wednesday that 186 PKK members had been killed in the operations conducted in the southeastern district of Cukurca over the past few days.
A total of 11,285 personnel “linked to a separatist-terrorist organisation have been suspended,” Turkey’s education ministry said on its official Twitter account on Thursday.
The teachers suspended for their alleged links to the PKK will be able to receive two thirds of their salaries until the end of a formal investigation, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.
Turkey, the US and the EU have branded the PKK a “terrorist organisation”.
The autonomy-seeking group abandoned a two-year ceasefire in July, reigniting a conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives since 1984.
The government has accused the PKK of a series of attacks in the southeast of Turkey in recent weeks.
The teachers’ suspensions came as Ankara pushes ahead with a purge against tens of thousands of supporters of the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Turkey of orchestrating an attempted coup in July.