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Turkey orders arrest of 304 military personel over suspected ties to aborted 2016 coup

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks following a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Turkey.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks following a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Turkey.   -   Copyright  Turkish Presidency via AP
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Turkey has ordered the detention of 304 members of the military in an operation targeting the group that the government claims to be behind a 2016 coup attempt, state-run media reported Tuesday.

The Anadolu news agency said an investigation led by prosecutors in the western city of Izmir targeted suspects in the army and air force thought to have had telephone exchanges with leaders of the Gülenist movement, with 198 people arrested across 50 provinces.

Of the suspects wanted, 295 are serving military personnel, including five colonels, Anadolu reported.

More than 285 people were killed in the failed July 2016 coup attempt, which Ankara says was organised by the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, a one-time ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He leads a network accused by Ankara of infiltrating Turkish institutions with the aim of overthrowing Erdogan's government.

Gülen, who has lived in the United States for more than two decades, denies involvement in the attempted putsch.

Since the abortive coup, the authorities have been tracking down Gülen's supporters and have carried out purges on a scale unprecedented in Turkey's modern history.

A clampdown on his followers has seen 292,000 people detained, of which 96,000 have been jailed pending trial, over the last four years. More than 130,000 people have been fired from public service jobs through emergency decrees, among them teachers and police officers.

At the end of November, 337 people, including officers and pilots, were sentenced to life imprisonment after the main trial on the attempted coup.

In another operation also targeting suspected supporters of Gülen, 21 people, including many military doctors, were arrested Tuesday in Ankara.

Critics say the arrests and dismissals have also targeted the wider opposition to Erdogan’s government under Turkey’s broad anti-terror laws.

Anadolu said the Izmir operation was the largest against armed forces’ personnel in terms of the number and rank of the suspects.