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Turkey orders arrest of military personnel with suspected Gulen links

Operation centred around coastal city of Izmir as Turkey's crackdown on alleged coup plotters continues
The operation to arrest the suspects centred around the western coastal city of Izmir (AFP)

Turkey has ordered the detention of 133 military personnel with suspected links to Fethullah Gulen, the prominent cleric accused of organising an attempted coup in 2016, state-run Anadolu agency reported on Tuesday.

The operation to arrest the suspects centred around the western coastal city of Izmir, Anadolu reported, adding that 82 of them were serving members of the military.

Ankara blames Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999, for masterminding the 15 July 2016 coup attempt. He has denied any involvement.

Since the failed coup, about 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others have been fired by decree during a post-coup state of emergency because of their alleged links to the plotters, as well as other "terrorist" organisations. Widespread arrests are still carried out routinely, with more than 77,000 people jailed pending trial. 

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Rights groups have decried the crackdown which Ankara insists is a necessary response to the scale of the security threat facing the country.

US officials have been reluctant to cede to Erdogan’s continual demands to have the cleric deported to Turkey to face charges for his alleged part in the plot. 

At a press conference between the two leaders on Thursday, Erdogan said: "I hope they will return this terrorist to us, as we return terrorists to them when requested.”

Gulen was previously an ally of Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Figures linked to Gulen's Hizmet movement had occupied positions within branches of the Turkish state and helped the AKP neutralise the political power of the military through arrests and prosecutions.