U.S. warns travelers to be careful when visiting southeastern Turkey

The State Department advised U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Turkey to be alert for a high potential for violence in the southeastern provinces.

Department personnel are subject to travel restrictions in Sirnak, Diyarbakir, Van, Siirt, Mus, Mardin, Batman, Bingol, Tunceli, Hakkari, Bitlis, and Elazig provinces, spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday. All have significant Kurdish populations, where clashes between militants and authorities have occurred in recent weeks.

McCormack said the department is advising U.S. citizens traveling or living in Turkey to avoid areas where crowds could be expected to gather, to exercise caution and to follow media reports closely.

"Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence," McCormack said.

In addition to the recent clashes between security forces and sympathizers for PKK, a Kurdish nationalist group in the southeast, McCormack said, there have been additional violent incidents in the main tourist areas of Istanbul.

They include demonstrations in central areas of Istanbul and small-scale bombings in various districts of the city.

"In addition, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, also known by the Kurdish acronym TAK, have issued a public warning to foreign tourists not to visit Turkey," McCormack said, reports AP.

O.Ch.