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Turkish minister says removal of Kurdish mayors was counterterrorism operation

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Turkey’s interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, on Thursday said the removal of three Kurdish mayors from office earlier this week was a counterterrorism operation, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

“We have to fight against terrorism, along with terrorists. For this purpose, on Monday, we took a step,” Soylu told reporters at a meeting in Ankara, referring to the removal of the three Kurdish mayors.

The mayors of Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were dismissed on Monday by the Interior Ministry on allegations of links to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“They nominated the same man who we had removed in the previous term,” Soylu said in reference to Ahmet Türk, the mayor of Mardin who was also dismissed by the ministry in 2016.

Türk was elected again in the March 31 local elections with 56 percent of the vote.

“Some people see nothing wrong with that [electing Türk again] but say we’re in the wrong for interfering with officials linked to the PKK,” Soylu added.

He also claimed that 635 PKK militants have been killed in counterterrorism operations since the beginning of the year.

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