Mehmet Emin Bilmez, appointed by Turkey’s Interior Ministry as a trustee in place of the mayor of Van, who was removed by the government from office, ordered the dissolution of the city council on Wednesday, the Diken news website reported.

The Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) had 44 delegates on the council, while the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had 27.

The duties of the council will be assumed by the municipal board, the report said.

The ministry removed the mayors of Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van for alleged ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US. The PKK has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s Southeast for more than three decades.

Meanwhile, nine employees of the Van Municipality were detained by police on Wednesday on allegations of terrorism.

Removal of Kurdish mayors is a part of Turkey’s counterterrorism policies: Minister

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.