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‘Turkey issues arrest warrants for 101 air force personnel’

Paramilitary police and special force members walk outside a courthouse as nearly 500 suspects, including a number of generals and military pilots, arrive for trial in Ankara, Turkey, on August 1, 2017. (Photo by AP)

Turkish authorities have issued arrest warrants for more than 100 members of the country’s air force and detained 33 of them over alleged links to a movement led by US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for an abortive 2016 coup.

Turkey’s Hurriyet daily reported on Thursday that the detainees were among the 101 members of Turkish air force who faced arrest in a large-scale investigation launched by the government across the country.

Those ordered detained included a brigadier-general and five colonels, Hurriyet added.

Ankara has carried out arrest campaigns against the alleged supporters of Gulen on a regular basis since the failed coup on July 15, 2016.

During the botched putsch, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, generally suppressed over a two days.

Ankara has since accused Gulen of having orchestrated the coup.

The photo shows self-exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, on September 24, 2013. (Via AFP)

The 77-year-old cleric has called on Ankara to end its “witch hunt,” and has called the crackdown on his supporters an attempt aimed at “weeding out anyone it (the Turkish government) deems disloyal to President Erdogan and his regime.”

Turkish officials have frequently called on their US counterparts to extradite Gulen, but their demands have not been heeded.

Turkey, which remains in a state of emergency since the coup, has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the failed coup.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists, have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.

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