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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Turkey orders detention of 170 soldiers for links to coup plotters

Those targeted in the operation, which was centred in Istanbul and spread across 37 other provinces, included retired, suspended and serving soldiers

Human rights activists stage a protest outside a court in Istanbul on October 25, 2017 where 11 human rights activists go on trial, accused of belonging to and aiding terror groups. Lefteris Pitarakis / AP
Human rights activists stage a protest outside a court in Istanbul on October 25, 2017 where 11 human rights activists go on trial, accused of belonging to and aiding terror groups. Lefteris Pitarakis / AP

Turkish authorities issued detention warrants for 170 people suspected of links to the network accused of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, the state-run Anadolu news agency said on Tuesday.

Those targeted in the operation, which was centred in Istanbul and spread across 37 other provinces, included retired, suspended and serving soldiers, Anadolu said, adding 22 of them were detained on Tuesday morning.

The suspects are believed to have contacted imams of the network via payphones and landlines, the news agency said. The arrests are part of Turkey's far-reaching clampdown against the network of US-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara holds responsible for the coup bid.

Read more: Turkey orders arrest of dozens of soldiers as part of Gulen investigation

Mr Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, has denied involvement and condemned the coup.

In the 19 months since the coup attempt — when rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and warplanes to attack parliament, killing more than 240 people — Turkey has jailed more than 50,000 after declaring a state of emergency. It has also sacked or suspended 150,000 people from their jobs in the military, public and private sectors.

The government dismisses rights groups' concerns about the crackdown, saying only such a purge could neutralise the threat represented by Mr Gulen's network, which it says infiltrated institutions such as the judiciary, army and schools.