Turkey dismisses four more pro-Kurdish mayors over 'terror ties'

Decision brings number of Kurdish mayors suspended to 24

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Four more mayors from Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party were dismissed on Saturday on suspicion of links with outlawed rebels and were replaced by government-appointed trustees.

The mayor of Suruc in the Sanliurfa province and three mayors from Mazidagi, Savur and Derik districts in the Mardin province were suspended, the state news agency Anadolu reported.

With the latest dismissals, the number of People's Democratic Party (HDP) mayors suspended by the government has reached 24.

Ankara accuses the HDP, the country's third-largest party, of links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency against the state since 1984.

In recent months, the government has cracked down on the HDP, the only party in Parliament to criticise Turkey's offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Syria in October, calling it an "invasion."

The HDP governs many cities in the largely Kurdish south-east of Turkey, and says it is the target of a systematic government plot to deplete its ranks.

The former co-leaders of the HDP have been jailed since 2016 on terrorism charges, with several other prominent members accused of supporting terrorism over what the government says are links to the PKK.

Turkish troops are carrying out a military offensive in neighbouring Syria against the Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara sees a terrorist group and also accuses of ties to the PKK.

During his visit to the US last week, Turkey's President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan said his country did not have issues with the Kurds, but with terrorist organisations.

US President Donald Trump praised Mr Erdogan's relationship with the Kurds.

"I think the president has a great relationship with the Kurds," Mr  Trump said. "Many Kurds live currently in Turkey, and they're happy and they're taken care of, including health care."

His comments were in sharp contrast to anger in the US Congress over Ankara's offensive into Syria to drive out a Kurdish militia that has been Washington's main partner in the fight against ISIS.