Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Turkey Detains Kabul-based Generals in Widening Purge
Stuart Williams with Fulya Ozerkan in Istanbul
July 26, 2016

Ankara (AFP) - Defying international alarm, Turkey on Tuesday widened its crackdown after a failed coup, detaining top generals serving in Afghanistan as well as prominent journalists.

In a move apparently reflecting a shift in diplomatic strategy, Turkey also announced President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin next month after months of chill between the two countries.

Two senior Turkish generals serving in the NATO force in Afghanistan were detained at Dubai airport on suspicion of links to the attempt to overthrow Erdogan, an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The source named the pair as Major General Mehmet Cahit Bakir, the commander of Turkey's task force in Afghanistan, and Brigadier General Sener Topuc.

The detentions followed cooperation between Turkish intelligence and UAE authorities, the state-run Anadolu news agency added, saying the pair were now being brought to Turkey.

"The Turkish contingent continues its mission," a spokesman for the NATO force in Afghanistan said, without further comment.

In a separate development, police were searching a naval academy just outside Istanbul in a probe into coup plotters, reports said.

The attempted putsch of July 15 has sent shockwaves through all aspects of life in Turkey, with institutions from the police to Turkish Airlines and the media.

Some 13,000 people have been detained and over 9,000 of them remanded in custody ahead of trial over the coup, which the Turkish authorities blame on reclusive Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen.

- Journalist detained -

Veteran journalist Nazli Ilicak was detained on Tuesday at a traffic checkpoint in the southwestern region of Bodrum, a day after the authorities issued arrest warrants for over 42 reporters, Anadolu said.

According to the Dogan news agency, eight of the 42 have now been detained including Ilicak and the former pro-Gulen Zaman newspaper writer Hanim Busra Erdal, who was picked up in the western city of Manisa.

Also held in the coup investigation was former governor of Istanbul Huseyin Avni Mutlu, Anadolu said, while a Turkish official said two senior foreign ministry diplomats have been removed from their posts.

According to Anadolu, more than 47,000 civil servants have lost their jobs since the coup, including almost 43,000 in the state education sector.

A major shake-up of the Turkish armed forces is expected to be announced on Thursday when the country's Supreme Military Council meets.

With 143 generals and more than 3,000 soldiers arrested on suspicion of links to the coup, there are gaping holes in the command structure which will have to be filled.

The government says the stringent measures are needed to clear out the influence of Gulen from Turkey's institutions, claiming he has created a "parallel state" inside Turkey.

Gulen -- who lives in a compound in rural Pennsylvania and whose foundation runs a global network of schools, charities and media interests -- has strongly denied the accusations.

In an apparent sign of Turkey's post-coup diplomatic strategy, Erdogan will visit Russia on August 9 to repair ties harmed by the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkish jets last year, officials said.

He will meet President Vladimir Putin, Turkish deputy premier Mehmet Simsek said, after talks with Russian counterpart Arkady Dvorkovich.

- Coup shock -

Turkey has undergone a seismic shift since the night of July 15, when renegade soldiers sought to topple Erdogan but were stopped by crowds of civilians and loyalist security forces. At least 270 people were killed on both sides.

A bridge over the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul -- which saw some of the fiercest fighting -- is to be renamed July 15 Martyrs' Bridge after the victims of the failed coup bid, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.

Thousands of Erdogan supporters continue to fill city squares across Turkey every night with the president telling them to stay until further notice in a "vigil" for democracy.

The crackdown and announcement of a three-month state of emergency has prompted sharp exchanges with the European Union, which Turkey has for years sought to join but which has sternly warned Ankara to obey the rule of law.

Erdogan took a swipe at the EU on Tuesday, accusing Brussels of not paying its way under a deal to send Syrian refugees back across the Aegean.

"The (European) governments are not honest," Erdogan told German public television station ARD.

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