Turkey fires 9,000 plot suspects

Turkish officials have fired nearly 9,000 police officers, bureaucrats, and other workers and detained thousands of suspected plotters following a foiled coup against the government.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said a total of 8,777 employees attached to the interior ministry were dismissed, including 30 governors, 52 civil service inspectors, and 16 legal advisers, while other media reports said police and military police officers and coast guards were also removed from duty.

The government blamed Friday’s failed coup — which it says left 208 government supporters and 24 plotters dead — on backers of a US-based Muslim cleric who has become president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s chief rival.

The situation creates a sticky diplomatic situation — Turkey is a Nato member and key Western ally in the fight against Islamic State (IS), but the EU and US have expressed alarm about its response to the coup.

Even before the weekend chaos, Turkey had been wracked by political turmoil that critics blamed on Mr Erdogan’s increasingly heavy-handed rule. 

He has shaken up the government, cracked down on dissent, restricted the media, and renewed fighting with Kurdish rebels.

Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim said a total of 7,543 people had been detained since Friday, including 6,030 military personnel.

According to Anadolu, prosecutors entered Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, which is key to the US-led campaign against IS.

A Turkish brigadier general at the base has already been detained for his alleged role in the coup, and news reports say refuelling aircraft that took off from the base helped keep F-16s used by the plotters up in the air.

Though government officials offered reassurances that life has returned to normal, warplanes patrolled Turkey’s skies in a sign that authorities fear the threat is not yet over.

Anadolu said Mr Erdogan ordered the overnight patrol by F-16s “for the control of the airspace and security” after a faction of the military attempted a coup.

The swift rounding up of judges and others after the failed coup ndicated the government had prepared a list beforehand, sid the EU commissioner dealing with Turkey’s membership bid, Johannes Hahn.

“It looks at least as if something has been prepared. The lists are available, which indicates it was prepared and to be used at a certain stage,” Mr Hahn said.

“I’m very concerned. It is exactly what we feared.”

The rebellion, which saw warplanes firing on key government installations and tanks rolling into major cities, was quashed by loyal government forces and masses of civilians who took to the streets. The country’s top military brass did not support the coup.

Mr Yildirim’s voice cracked and he wept as he spoke with reporters after a cabinet meeting and repeated a question his grandson had put to him: “Why are they killing people?”

Turkish prosecutors began questioning 27 generals and admirals. Anadolu reported the group includes former air force commander General Akin Ozturk, who has been described as the ringleader of the foiled coup.

Gen Ozturk, who was still on active duty and has now been detained, has denied he was involved and insists he worked to quell the uprising in statements to Turkish media.

The government moved swiftly in the wake of the coup to shore up its power and remove those perceived as enemies.

Yesterday, security forces continued raiding military facilities in search of suspected plotters. In addition to Incirlik, they searched the Air Force Academy premises and residences in Istanbul, Anadolu reported. It was not clear if any arrests were made.

The crackdown targeted not only generals and soldiers, but a wide swath of the judiciary that has sometimes blocked Mr Erdogan, raising fears the effort to oust him will push Turkey further into authoritarian rule.

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