Turkey detains 85 military personnel over Gulen ties

Turkish solders stay with weapons at Taksim square as people protest against the military coup in Istanbul in this July 16, 2016 photo. (AFP)
Updated 21 September 2018
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Turkey detains 85 military personnel over Gulen ties

  • Prosecutors in Ankara issued arrest warrants for 110 active duty personnel in the air force
  • Western allies have expressed concern over the scale of the crackdown

ANKARA: Turkish police on Friday detained 85 military personnel in countrywide raids over alleged links to the group blamed for the 2016 failed coup, state media reported.
Prosecutors in Ankara issued arrest warrants for 110 active duty personnel in the air force, state-run news agency Anadolu said, as part of a probe into followers of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Police launched operations in 16 provinces including Ankara while those detained in other cities would be taken to the Turkish capital.
Five of those sought by police were pilots while three were colonels, the agency added.
Turkey claims Gulen ordered the attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 15, 2016 but he strongly denies the charges.
Over 77,000 people including military personnel, teachers and judges have been arrested over suspected links to Gulen under the two-year state of emergency imposed five days after the coup bid. The government ended the emergency this July.
Western allies have expressed concern over the scale of the crackdown which saw over 140,000 people suspended or sacked from the public sector.
In the face of stringent criticism, Ankara has insisted the raids are necessary to remove the “virus” that is the Gulen movement’s infiltration of key Turkish institutions.
Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, denies this and insists his movement is peaceful, and promotes moderate Islam and secular education.


Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

Updated 16 min 49 sec ago
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Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

  • Russian-backed regime forces try to retake villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province

 

BEIRUT: At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and airstrikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian regime airstrikes killed nine opposition fighters, the war monitor said.

Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.

In neighboring Idlib, regime airstrikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.

The strikes hit the towns of Maaret Al-Numan and Al-Bara as well as the village of Al-Ftira, according to the war monitor.

The Idlib region of some 3 million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as opposition refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Turkey said on Friday that it did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that it had no ability to stop the Syrian regime’s continued bombardments in the last opposition bastion of Idlib.

“In Syria, who are the regime’s guarantors? Russia and Iran,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu in a televised interview.

“Thus we do not accept the excuse that ‘We cannot make the regime listen to us’,” he said.

His comments came as Turkey disagreed with Russia earlier this week after Moscow claimed a new cease-fire had been secured in the province following weeks of regime bombardments — a claim that was denied by Ankara.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-regime protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and militants.