Turkish security forces arrested 203 soldiers Tuesday in nationwide raids targeting military personnel accused of links to an exiled Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gülen, whom Ankara claims was behind a 2016 coup attempt.
The 2016 coup attempt was a failed bid by rogue soldiers who had commandeered warplanes, helicopters and tanks to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government. This led to crackdowns and mass arrests, resulting in more than 250 deaths. Ankara accused the followers of Gülen of plotting the coup. Gülen, however, denied any involvement.
The raids targeted personnel across ranks; colonels, as well as lieutenants, majors, captains, sergeants, and specialist sergeants were sought out. Additionally, prosecutors ordered the detention of a total of 184 suspects, including 123 serving military personnel. The suspects were part of a variety of forces, with 39 from the land forces, 97 from the air force, six from the navy, four from the gendarmerie, and 38 graduates of military schools that were disbanded after the coup attempt.
The security forces alleged that the arrested soldiers are linked to Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), a so-called Gülen network accused of infiltrating the police and security forces. The suspects are accused of communicating with Gülen’s “covert imams” via payphone. Covert/secret imams is a term given by the government to refer to senior FETO members.
Tens of thousands of people have been detained on similar grounds since the coup attempt.