Turkey’s ‘cleansing’ begins

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Turkish riot police escort a soldier, center, who allegedly took part in a military coup in Istanbul.
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© AFP Bulent Kilic
    3,000 soldiers detained Arrest warrants out for more than 2,700 judges and prosecutors Strains on Turkey/US relations “The cleansing is continuing,” Bekir Bozdag, Turkish justice minister, says

Turkish authorities on Sunday began rounding up dozens of generals as well as senior judges and prosecutors accused of supporting a failed military coup aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The government has already said that almost 3,000 soldiers had been detained on suspicion of involvement in the putsch, which began on Friday night but faltered in the early hours of Saturday.

NTV television said that 34 generals of various grades had been detained so far. They include senior figures like Erdal Ozturk, commander of the third army and the commander of the Malatya-based second army, Adem Huduti.

The authorities have been carrying out raids at military bases across Turkey in search of those suspected of supporting the coup, which has claimed at least 265 lives.

In an operation early Sunday, at the garrison in the western town of Denizli, its commander Ozhan Ozbakir was detained along with 51 other soldiers, the state-run Anatolia news agency said.

The crackdown is however not restricted to the military, and Anadolu said that prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for a total of 2,745 judges and prosecutors across Turkey.

As many as 6,000 people have been arrested in total, as the Turkish government begins to assign blame for the failed coup. The entire investigation is being led by Ankara prosecutors.

The US State Department denied any link to the events, after the Turkish government, a US ally, blamed the coup on an exiled Turkish dissident who has been given sanctuary in the American state of Pennsylvania.

Those arrested are suspected of belonging to the group led by US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey accuses of masterminding the coup. Gulen denies the charges.

“The cleansing [operation] is continuing,” said Bekir Bozdag, the Turkish justice minister, in a television interview, cited by The Guardian. “Some 6,000 detentions have taken place. The number could surpass 6,000.”

“Public insinuations or claims about any role by the United States in the failed coup attempt are utterly false and harmful to our bilateral relations,” the State Department said.

Turkey accuses Gulen of leading a group called the “Fethullahci Terror Organisation (FETO)” that has created a parallel state. Gulen’s supporters say their group, which they call Hizmet (Service), is entirely peaceful.

US President Barack Obama had warned Turkey there is a “vital need” for all parties to “act within the rule of law” in the aftermath of the coup.