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Turkey detains coup plotters at base used by US: Media

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jets (foreground) are pictured at Incirlik airbase in the southern city of Adana, Turkey. (Photo by Reuters)

Turkey has detained a senior air force general and other officers accused of involvement in a failed military coup at a key air base used by US forces for raids in Syria, Turkish media reports say.

Local newspapers, including Hurriyet Daily, said brigadier air force general Bekir Ercan Van was taken into custody Saturday along with over a dozen lower ranking officers at Incirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana.

AFP quoted an unnamed Turkish official as saying that Ankara suspected Incirlik was used to refuel military aircraft hijacked by the putschists overnight Friday.

Last year, Turkey agreed to allow the United States to use Incirlik to carry out raids against purported Daesh targets in neighboring Iraq and Syria.

Incirlik is of strategic importance to Washington’s aerial military operations as it is home to A-10s, the most reliable manned aircraft the US uses in its military campaign in the two Arab states.

It is also one of six NATO sites in the region, which house tactical nuclear weapons.

On Saturday, Turkey said it managed to largely crush an attempted military coup launched by an army faction after a night of explosions, gunfire and tanks rolling along the streets of the capital, Ankara, and the main city of Istanbul.

Fierce clashes erupted between army forces and the soldiers involved in the foiled coup.

A Turkish army armed vehicle drives in Istanbul on July 16, 2016. ©AFP

In the wake of the botched coup, Ankara has launched an intensive crackdown against the judiciary and the military.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Sunday Turkey has detained over 6,000 people over the coup plot and the number will rise.

"Now the clean-up operations are continuing. We have around 6,000 people detained. The number will increase above 6,000," he was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency.

A total of 265 people were killed in the attempted coup d’état in Turkey.

According to the US consulate in Adana, Turkish officials had imposed a security lockdown on the air base in the wake of the coup, preventing all movements in or out of the site. The airspace around Incirlik airbase remained closed for a few hours.

The report on arrests inside Incirlik come as a number of Turkish state officials, including Labor and Social Security Minister Suleyman Soylu, have suggested that the US had played a part in the failed coup.

The accusations prompted US Secretary of State John Kerry to call Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and reject the claims as “utterly false and harmful to our bilateral relations.”

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