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Protesters Clash With Police in Turkey Over Removal of Mayors

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Turkish riot police use water cannon to disperse Kurdish demonstrators protesting against the removal of the local mayor from office over suspected links with Kurdish militants, in Diyarbakir, Turkey, Sept. 11, 2016.

Turkish riot police use water cannon to disperse Kurdish demonstrators protesting against the removal of the local mayor from office over suspected links with Kurdish militants, in Diyarbakir, Turkey, Sept. 11, 2016.

Clashes between police and protesters erupted in southeastern Turkey after a government announcement that it had replaced 28 elected municipal and district mayors in several predominantly Kurdish towns.

The removed officials are suspected of ties with what the government considers terrorist organization, the Turkish Interior Ministry said Sunday.

When local governments “come under the influence of terrorist organizations, it is the state's primary duty to take precautions against those who have usurped the people's will,” the statement said.

Twenty four of those removed are suspected of ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and the other four of links to the Gulen movement allegedly responsible for the attempted coup in July which killed over 270 people.

US concerns

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara posted a statement on its website and Twitter that it is concerned by reports of clashes in southeastern Turkey, following the government decision to remove the mayors.

The embassy said it supported Turkey's right to defend itself against terrorism,but emphasizes the importance of respect for due process and the right to peaceful protest.

"We hope that any appointment of trustees will be temporary and that local citizens will soon be permitted to choose new local officials in accordance with Turkish law," the embassy said.

The latest crackdown follows the massive removal and detention of people from Turkey’s military, judiciary, civil service and education, following the July 15 coup attempt, which all combined have surpassed 80,000.

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