ISTANBUL (AFP) - Turkish police have launched raids in 49 cities to detain over 300 soldiers accused of links to the group blamed for last year’s attempted coup, state media reported Wednesday.
The Istanbul public prosecutor issued arrest warrants for 360 people as part of a probe into followers of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen in the Turkish armed forces, state-run news agency Anadolu said.
Those targeted include 333 soldiers, as well as 27 civilians suspected of being so-called "secret imams" who are alleged to be in charge of Gulenists in the military.
Two of the soldiers were detained in the northern city of Zonguldak, Anadolu said. It said they will be taken to Istanbul where the investigation into the Gulen "structure" in the military is taking place.
Of the 360 sought, 216 were soldiers on active duty, the private Dogan news agency said. Seven of the suspects sought are pilots.
Turkey accuses Gulen of masterminding the July 15, 2016 failed overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Gulen vehemently denies the claims.
Since last July, over 50,000 people have been arrested in a crackdown on the movement which Turkey has dubbed the "Fethullah Terrorist Organisation" (FETO).
Gulen, living in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania since 1999, insists his group is peaceful and has no links to terror.
Turkey’s Western allies have expressed concern over the magnitude of the post-coup purge in which more than 140,000 people have been suspended or sacked from the public sector including members of the military.
But Ankara insists the raids are necessary to rid Turkey of what Erdogan describes as the "virus" created by Gulen’s infiltration of key Turkish institutions.