Turkish officials prepare to dispatch armored ambulances to southeastern Turkey, where months of violence by the terrorist organization PKK has disrupted daily life.
Speaking in a televised interview, Turkish Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu said that the armored ambulances will soon be brought to high-risk areas where medical staff often comes under attack.
Bulletproof ambulances may bring a sense of safety to doctors and paramedics in the region, where more than one ambulance has to be deployed, even in minor incidents, Müezzinoğlu says. "We have to send a second ambulance when (terrorists) hurl Molotov cocktails at one. But they also attack the new ambulances as well so we have to dispatch as many as five ambulances in some cases," he told TGRT Haber TV.
The minister said they strive to keep health services running in areas where terrorism is most prevalent and say they have not faced shortcomings with regard to providing services to the public. However, he pointed out that armored ambulances -- most commonly used in high-risk circumstances all over the world -- are necessary for the current situation.
In southeastern Turkey - especially the heavily populated provinces of Diyarbakır and Mardin--heavy clashes between security forces and the PKK have been the typical scene since the PKK renewed their offensive against Turkey last summer. Several districts of these provinces are occasionally put under curfew, with troops and police conducting anti-terror sweeps to weed out militants holed up in residential areas. Terrorists sometimes target ambulances, especially those sent for security personnel who have been injured in gunfire. The PKK also poses a threat to the doctors, nurses and paramedics who are treating wounded soldiers and police officers in local hospitals. Mehmet Müezzinoğlu said that four medical personnel were killed recently in the region, including off-duty personnel. An ambulance driver was also shot as he drove to the scene of an incident in Diyarbakır. Another health worker was gunned down while he returned home from work adding to a staggering number of casualties since July, when the PKK started its violent campaign.
Mehmet Müezzinoğlu said that health personnel will remain in the area despite mounting incidents of terror forcing locals to leave their towns. "It is out of the question that we would withdraw our personnel from any place where people are in need of health services," the minister said, adding that they would instead step up security for health workers and at local hospitals.
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