Turkey arrests hundreds over suspected ties to failed 2016 coup

Turkish authorities have arrested hundreds of people they suspect have ties to the purported leader of a failed overthrow of the government three and a half years ago, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Turkish citizens celebrate during a ceremony commemorating the first anniversary of a failed coup attempt at the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey, on July 15, 2017. File Photo by Tolga Bozoglu

More than 200 people were detained on warrants from prosecutors in the western Turkish city of Izmir. Among those arrested were six military fighter pilots and four local police chiefs, as well as dozens of active duty soldiers and former troops suspected of being linked to exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long blamed Gulen, who lives in the United States, for masterminding the military’s coup attempt in mid-2016. Gulen’s social and cultural movement, which is believed to have millions of followers across Turkey, has been branded by Ankara a terrorist organization — one it calls the Fetullah Gulen Terrorist Organization.

Turkish officials said Tuesday they identified many of the suspects by monitoring phone communications between military “infiltrators” and handlers.

Most of the arrests were made in and around Izmir, where Gulen had a substantial following before he left for the United States in 2000. He now lives in Pennsylvania.

Turkish authorities have arrested hundreds of people since the failed coup, but have never been able to apprehend Gulen. Turkey has unsuccessfully demanded the United States return him for trial.

ByDon Jacobson