After military shake-up, Erdogan says Turkey to tackle Kurds in Syria

: Turkish army tanks drive towards to the border in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 25,

By Dominic Evans and Orhan Coskun

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Days after a reshuffle of Turkey’s top military commanders, President Tayyip Erdogan has revived warnings of military action against Kurdish fighters in Syria that could set back the U.S.-led battle against Islamic State.

Kurdish militia are spearheading an assault against the hardline militants in their Syrian stronghold Raqqa, from where Islamic State has planned attacks around the world for the past three years.

But U.S. backing for the Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria has infuriated Turkey, which views their growing battlefield strength as a security threat due to a decades-old insurgency by the Kurdish PKK within in its borders.

There have been regular exchanges of rocket and artillery fire in recent weeks between Turkish forces and YPG fighters who control part of Syria’s northwestern border.

Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO after the United States, reinforced that section of the border at the weekend with artillery and tanks and Erdogan said Turkey was ready to take action.

“We will not leave the separatist organization in peace in both Iraq and Syria,” Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday in the eastern town of Malatya, referring to the YPG in Syria and PKK bases in Iraq. “We know that if we do not drain the swamp, we cannot get rid of flies.”

The YPG denies Turkish allegations of links with Kurdish militants inside Turkey, saying it is only interested in self-rule in Syria and warning that any Turkish assault will draw its fighters away from the battle against Islamic State which they are waging in an alliance with local Arab forces.

Erdogan’s comments follow the appointment of three new leaders of Turkey’s army, air force and navy last week – moves which analysts and officials said were at least partly aimed at preparing for any campaign against the YPG militia.

Turkish forces swept into north Syria last year to seize territory from Islamic State, while also cutting off Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria from the Kurdish pocket of Afrin further west. They thereby prevented Kurdish control over almost the whole sweep of the border – Ankara’s worst-case scenario.

Recent clashes have centered around the Arab towns of Tal Rifaat and Minnigh, near Afrin, which are held by the Kurdish YPG and allied fighters.

Erdogan said Turkey’s military incursion last year dealt a blow to “terrorist projects” in the region and promised further action. “We will make new and important moves soon,” he said.



His comments follow weeks of warnings from Turkey of possible military action against the YPG.

Washington’s concern to prevent any confrontation which deflects the Kurdish forces attacking Raqqa may help stay Ankara’s hand, but a Turkish government source said last week’s changes in military leadership have prepared the ground.

“With this new structure, some steps will be taken to be more active in the struggle against terror,” the source said. “A structure that acts according to the realities of the region will be formed”.

The battle for Raqqa has been underway since June, and a senior U.S. official said on Friday that 2,000 Islamic State fighters are believed to be still defending positions and “fighting for every last block” in the city.

Even after the recapture of Raqqa, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has left open the possibility of longer-term American assistance to the YPG.

The influence of Turkey’s once-dominant military has decreased dramatically since Erdogan came to power nearly 15 years ago. A purge in senior ranks since last year’s failed military coup has stripped it of 40 percent of top officers.

Last Wednesday’s appointments were issued by the Supreme Military Council, a body which despite its name is now dominated by politicians loyal to Erdogan.

“Of course the political will is behind these decisions, Erdogan’s preferences are behind them,” the source said. “But the restructuring of the Turkish Armed Forces and the demand for a more active fight against the PKK and Islamic State also has a role”.

Vacancies in senior military ranks resulting from the year-long purge would not be filled immediately, he said, but would be addressed over time.

While all three forces – air, land and sea – are under new command, focus has centered on the new army chief Yasar Guler. As head of Turkey’s gendarmerie, he was seen to take a tough line against the PKK and the movement of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen blamed by the government for the July 2016 coup attempt.

Ankara considers the YPG an extension of the PKK, which is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

Can Kasapoglu, a defense analyst at the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM), said the YPG “remains at the epicenter of Turkey’s threat perception”.

Guler was well-placed to address Turkey’s “transnational counter-terrorism priorities” and lead the campaign against Kurdish forces because of his past roles as chief of military intelligence, head of gendarmerie and postings to NATO.

“There is an undeniable likelihood that Turkey’s new top military chain of command might have to lead a major campaign against the YPG,” Kasapoglu said.

Guler is now favorite to take over from the overall head of the Turkish armed forces, General Hulusi Akar, who is due to step down in two years.

“Guler gets on well with members of Erdogan’s AK Party and is known for his hardline performance against the PKK…and the Gulen movement,” said Metin Gurcan an independent security analyst and retired Turkish military officer who now writes a column for Al-Monitor news website.

For the president, who faces a re-election campaign in 2019, a smooth succession from Akar to Guler would avoid any military upheaval which could send his plans off-course, Gurcan said.

“Until 2023, Erdogan should have smooth sailing without disruption from the Turkish armed forces.”


(Additional reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Dirimcan Barut in Ankara; editing by Philippa Fletcher)


Turkish soldiers accused of Erdogan assassination attempt to go to trial

Turkish soldiers accused of attempting to assassinate President Tayyip Erdogan on the night of the failed last year's July 15 coup, are escorted by gendarmes as they arrive for the first hearing of the trial in Mugla, Turkey,

By Humeyra Pamuk

MUGLA, Turkey (Reuters) – Prosecutors called for life sentences for more than 40 Turkish soldiers on Monday at the start of their trial for attempting to assassinate President Tayyip Erdogan during last year’s failed coup, according to the indictment obtained by Reuters.

Under tight security, the defendants were bussed in to a courthouse in the southwestern city of Mugla, not far from the luxury resort where Erdogan and his family narrowly escaped the soldiers, fleeing in a helicopter shortly before their hotel was attacked.

More than 240 people were killed during the July 15 failed coup, when a group of rogue soldiers commandeered tanks, warplanes and helicopters, attacking parliament and attempting to overthrow the government.

On Monday, prosecutors in Mugla charged 47 suspects, almost all of them soldiers, with charges including attempting to assassinate the president, breaching the constitution and membership of an armed terrorist organization.

It was not immediately clear how all the suspects would plead. One of the first defendants to testify admitted to accepting a mission to seize, but not kill, Erdogan.

“My mission was to take the president and bring him to Akinci air base safe and sound,” Gokhan Sonmezates told the court, referring to a base outside Ankara that briefly functioned as a command center for the coup plotters.

Turkey says the coup was orchestrated by a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen. The cleric, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied the charges and condemned the coup.

Since the failed coup, more than 40,000 people have been arrested and more than 100,000 have been sacked or suspended from the military, civil service and private sector.

Turkey launched its first criminal trial related to the coup in December and more trials are expected.


Sonmezates, a former brigadier general, was described in the indictment as a leader of the mission, something he denied in court. He also denied charges that he was a member of Gulen’s network.

“It was for the country, for the nation, to stop the decay domestically, to put an end to the bribery, to protect my country from the PKK,” he told the court, referring to the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The suspects, who include Erdogan’s former aide-de-camp, were wearing suits when they were brought from prison to the courthouse. They were met by a crowd of some 200 people waving flags and calling for their execution.

“We want the death penalty. Let the hand that tried to harm our chief be broken,” said one of the protesters, 61-year-old Zuhal Ayhan, referring to Erdogan. “I’d give my life for him.”

Turkey formally abolished the death penalty as part of its 2002 European Union accession talks. Since the coup, crowds have repeatedly called for it to be restored, a move that would likely spell the end of Turkey’s bid to join the EU.

The area around the courthouse was cordoned off and patrolled by dozens of security force members, including police and special forces. Snipers stood on nearby rooftops.

Forty-four defendants were brought in, while three remain at large and are being tried in absentia. The courthouse in Mugla was too small to handle the number of defendants and authorities said the trial was being heard at the conference room of the chamber of commerce next door.

According to the indictment, some 37 soldiers were charged with a having a direct role in the storming of the luxury Grand Yazici Club Turban, others are those who provided assistance to the operation.

The soldiers in helicopters descended on the hotel in Marmaris, on ropes, shooting, just after Erdogan had left.

In an interview with Reuters after the coup, Erdogan said his faith as a Muslim helped him and his family escape unscathed.

(Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Erdogan warns Europe that Turkey could open migrant gates

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a signing ceremony with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus,

By Tulay Karadeniz and Nick Tattersall

ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan threatened on Friday to unleash a new wave of migrants on Europe after lawmakers there voted for a temporary halt to Turkey’s EU membership negotiations, but behind the fighting talk, neither side wants a collapse in ties.

Europe’s deteriorating relations with Turkey, a buffer against the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, are endangering a deal which has helped to significantly reduce a migrant influx which saw more than 1.3 million people arrive in Europe last year.

“You clamored when 50,000 refugees came to Kapikule, and started wondering what would happen if the border gates were opened,” Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul, referring to a Bulgarian border checkpoint where migrants massed last year.

“If you go any further, these border gates will be opened. Neither I nor my people will be affected by these empty threats,” he told a women’s conference, dismissing Thursday’s vote in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

“Don’t forget, the West needs Turkey.”

The agreement struck in March with Ankara, under which it helps control migration in return for the promise of accelerated EU membership talks and aid, has reduced the influx via Turkey to a trickle. But its neighbors are still struggling to cope.

Clashes broke out at a migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos after a fire killed a woman and a 6-year old child late on Thursday, while Bulgaria said it would extradite hundreds of asylum seekers to their native Afghanistan next month after they clashed with riot police.

The vote by the European Parliament in favor of freezing Turkey’s EU accession talks was non-binding and Germany, France and most other EU states back continued engagement, despite their concerns about Turkey’s human rights record.

European leaders fear putting at risk Erdogan’s cooperation on migration at a time when far-right and anti-immigrant parties have seen their popularity rise, particularly with elections next year in France, Germany and Holland.

Sensing Europe’s weakness, Erdogan has repeatedly threatened in recent days that Turkey could “cut its own umbilical cord” and sever ties with the EU, playing migration as his trump card.

But Turkey also needs Europe. The EU is Turkey’s largest trading partner and its 11-year membership negotiations, though long stalled, served in their early years as an important anchor for pro-market reforms and investor confidence.

“Cutting off membership talks would harm both sides. We are aware of this,” said Yasin Aktay, a spokesman for the ruling AK Party, which was founded by Erdogan.

“We support the continuing of relations, we know this will benefit us and them. But if there is a negative step from the other side, we will not be held responsible for the consequences,” he said.


Erdogan is riding a wave of nationalist sentiment after a failed military coup in July, and his emotional criticism of Europe plays well to a domestic audience angered by what it saw as lackluster Western support for Turkey after the attempt.

The European Parliament voted for freezing talks because of what it saw as Turkey’s “disproportionate” reaction to the coup. More than 125,000 people accused of links to the plotters, from soldiers and judges to journalists and doctors, have been dismissed or detained over the past four months.

“There are millions of migrant babies across the world … but no step is being taken. What step is being taken? Debating whether or not Turkey should be in the EU,” Erdogan said.

“We are the ones who feed 3 million refugees. You have not even kept your promises.”

Turkey is home to the world’s largest refugee population, housing some 2.7 million Syrians and 300,000 Iraqis. Erdogan has repeatedly said that promised European aid has been too slow to arrive, a charge rejected by Brussels.

He has said Turkey could hold a referendum on whether or not to continue its EU membership bid, and even floated the idea of becoming a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a security bloc dominated by China and Russia.

“This is extremely populist rhetoric,” said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat and analyst at Carnegie Europe.

The Shanghai grouping was formed with security, not trade, at its core and can be no substitute for the EU, he said.

“There is no diplomatic preparation to form an alternative relationship with the EU other than full membership at the moment,” he said, adding that there was a high chance of a diplomatic crisis over the migration deal by year-end.

“It is difficult for the migration agreement to continue under these circumstances,” he said.


Under the March deal, Turkey agreed to take back illegal migrants leaving its shores for Greece in return, among other things, for visa-free travel for Turks in Europe. Such visa liberalization looks unlikely to be granted any time soon.

Several EU members nonetheless made clear on Friday they were against freezing Turkey’s negotiations to join the bloc.

“It is important that we keep talking,” German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli told a news conference.

Croatian Foreign Minister Davor Ivo Stier said it was not in the interests of the EU, Croatia, or Slovenia, where he was on an official visit, to suspend talks with Turkey and that “we need a balanced standpoint toward Ankara”.

Before the Balkan migration route was closed in March hundreds of thousands of migrants passed through Croatia and Slovenia toward wealthier western Europe. Both want to keep their borders closed for illegal migrants.

But France criticized Erdogan for threatening Europe.

“We believe one-upmanship and controversies are counterproductive,” French foreign affairs ministry spokesman Alexandre Giorgini said at a news briefing.

(Additional reporting by Ercan Gurses and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara, Daren Butler in Istanbul, Angeliki Koutantou and Renee Maltezou in Athens, Dimitar Kyosemarliev in Harmanli, Paul Carrel in Berlin, Marja Novak in Paris, Writing by Nick Tattersall, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Turkey detains editor, top staff at opposition newspaper

Supporters of Cumhuriyet newspaper, an opposition secularist daily, hold today's copies during a protest in front of its headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey,

By Humeyra Pamuk and Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish police detained the editor and senior staff of a leading opposition newspaper on Monday over its alleged support for a failed coup in July, in a move described by a top EU politician as the crossing of a red line against freedom of expression.

Updating earlier information on its website, Cumhuriyet newspaper said 11 staff including the editor were being held by authorities, and arrest warrants had been issued for five more.

Turkey’s crackdown since rogue soldiers tried to seize power on July 15 has alarmed Western allies and rights groups, who fear President Tayyip Erdogan is using the coup attempt to crush dissent. More than 110,000 people have been sacked or suspended and 37,000 arrested over the past three and a half months.

The latest detentions came a day after 10,000 more civil servants were dismissed and 15 more media outlets shut down.

The Istanbul prosecutor’s office said the staff at the paper, one of few media outlets still critical of Erdogan, were suspected of committing crimes on behalf of Kurdish militants and the network of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric. Turkey accuses Gulen of orchestrating the coup attempt, in which he denies any involvement.

“An investigation was launched… due to allegations and assessments that shortly before the attempted coup, material was published justifying the coup,” the prosecutor’s office said.

Cumhuriyet said several of its staff had their laptops seized from their homes. Footage showed one writer, Aydin Engin, 75, being ushered by plain clothes police into a hospital for medical checks.

Asked by reporters to comment on his detention, Engin said: “I work for Cumhuriyet, isn’t that enough?”

Another veteran journalist, Kadri Gursel, who began writing for Cumhuriyet in May, said on Twitter that his house was being searched and that there was an arrest warrant for him.

Several hundred people gathered in front of Cumhuriyet’s Istanbul offices in support of the paper, chanting and holding banners that said “Journalism is not a crime” and “Sharp pens will tear through the dark”.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz wrote on Twitter that the detentions marked the crossing of ‘yet another red-line’ against freedom of expression in Turkey. “The ongoing massive purge seems motivated by political considerations, rather than legal and security rationale,” he said.

The government has said its measures are justified by the threat posed to the state by the coup attempt, in which more than 240 people were killed.

A court on Sunday also jailed, pending trial, the co-mayors of the largely Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. The head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) called on opposition groups to stand together against a “tyrannical mentality”.

“We are facing a new phase in the coordinated oppression managed by the AKP headquarters to ensure no opposition remains,” Selahattin Demirtas told reporters. The AKP is the governing party.


Before turning himself in, veteran cartoonist Musa Kart told reporters outside Cumhuriyet’s offices that such means of pressure were not going to succeed in frightening people.

“This is a comical situation,” he said. “It is not possible for people with a conscience to accept this. You can’t explain this to the world. I am being detained solely for drawing caricatures.”

Cumhuriyet’s previous editor, Can Dundar, was jailed last year for publishing state secrets involving Turkey’s support for Syrian rebels. The case sparked censure from rights groups and Western governments worried about worsening human rights in Turkey under Erdogan.

Cumhuriyet said Dundar, who was freed in February and is now abroad, was one of those facing arrest.

“They are attacking ‘the last bastion’,” Dundar wrote on Twitter as news of the operation emerged. A month after the failed coup, Dundar told Reuters he feared the government would attempt to link him to the putsch.

Opposition groups say the purges are being used to silence all dissent in Turkey, a NATO member which aspires to membership of the European Union.

Since the attempted coup, 170 newspapers, magazines, television stations and news agencies have been shut down, leaving 2,500 journalists unemployed, Turkey’s journalists’ association said in a statement protesting the detentions.

“This operation is a new coup against freedom of expression and of the press,” it said, adding that 105 journalists were in jail pending trial and the press cards of 777 journalists had been canceled.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Mark Trevelyan)

After failed coup, what sort of Turkey does Erdogan want?

A supporter holds a flag depicting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during a pro-government demonstration in Ankara, Turkey,

By Luke Baker

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Looking across Istanbul’s skyline, it is impossible not to be struck by the array of red-and-white, star-and-crescent flags fluttering from buildings, monuments, bridges and flagpoles.

Patriotism in Turkey has always been strong, but in the wake of July’s failed coup by members of the military, President Tayyip Erdogan has tapped freely into the populist, banner-draped fervor to remould the nation in his image.

The questions are, what sort of Turkey does Erdogan want, and what steps will this powerful and sometimes unpredictable leader take to achieve his vision?

The answers could have far-reaching implications for the global role played by the Muslim-majority NATO member, whose assistance is seen in the West as vital in the war against Islamic State and in tackling the migrant crisis.

At one level, diplomats and analysts say, Erdogan has made his aims perfectly clear. In the three months since the coup attempt, authorities have suspended or dismissed 100,000 civil servants, judges, lecturers, military personnel and police – purging some of the most established pillars of society.

Anyone with suspected links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan accuses of masterminding the putsch, is a possible target. Gulen has denied plotting against the state and any involvement in the coup.

More than 30,000 people have been arrested. Five percent of the entire police force has been removed from duty. Whole ministerial departments have been shut down.

Some Western allies fear creeping authoritarianism and a shift toward a political model built around a strong leader and dominant single party but lacking checks and balances in Turkey, whose size, military power and location between Europe, the Middle East and Asia give it significant strategic clout.

“He wants a Turkey where he is the undisputed, unchallenged decider without the constraints of a normal democratic system,” said James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Ankara and a senior fellow at the Washington Institute.

“He won’t overturn the constitution or get rid of democracy, but he wants to render the opposition incapable of challenging him and to exercise clear power over them,” he told Reuters.

By contrast, Erdogan’s loyal supporters see him as the champion of the pious masses, forging a proud and independent nation that will not be dictated to by outside powers.

The president and his aides bristle at the notion he is dictatorial. They point to his succession of election victories, first as leader of the ruling AK Party, and then in Turkey’s first popular presidential election in 2014.


But Erdogan’s ambitions likely go further than taking back control and projecting authority.

While the 62-year-old may have no desire to recreate the Ottoman empire, political analysts and diplomats say he wants to draw on that sense of greatness to craft a Turkey that bestrides the world, respected and perhaps a little feared by neighbors and peers.

In speeches and comments before and since the failed putsch, Erdogan has frequently referenced the Ottoman period, when Turkey’s forefathers held territory stretching from southeast Europe to the Caucasus, North Africa and Iraq.

He often laments the concessions made by Turkish leaders after World War One, with the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne that brought modern Turkey into being in 1923, as if to suggest only he can restore the nation’s illustrious past.

“What you’re witnessing in Turkey is tied up with an almost constant desire to reclaim the heritage of the Ottoman empire, which was of course a polyglot, multi-ethnic entity,” said Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“In almost every one of Erdogan’s speeches there are these themes: You can be proud you are a Turk, proud that you are a Muslim, we have influence in our region and beyond. The expression ‘Great Turkey’ is used almost all the time.”

In August, with great symbolism and fanfare, Erdogan inaugurated a new bridge over the Bosphorus between Europe and Asia. The span, the third over the strait, was named after a 16th-century Ottoman ruler, Yavuz Sultan Selim. “Be proud of your power, Turkey,” announced adverts on television.

At the U.N. General Assembly in September, the most high-profile speech Erdogan has made abroad since the failed coup, he expanded on two of his favorite themes: how Turkey helps the oppressed and serves as a role model in the Muslim world, and how power at the United Nations is too narrowly held.

“The world is greater than five,” he said, referring to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. “A Security Council that does not represent the entire world can never serve to re-establish peace and justice around the world.”

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan attend Democracy and Martyrs Rally, organized by him and supported by ruling AK Party (AKP), oppositions Republican People's Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), to protest against last month's failed military coup attempt, in Istanbul, Turkey

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan attend Democracy and Martyrs Rally, organized by him and supported by ruling AK Party (AKP), oppositions Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), to protest against last month’s failed military coup attempt, in Istanbul, Turkey, August 7, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo


Since coming to power in 2003, first as prime minister and then as president, Erdogan has overseen a period of rapid economic growth and increased regional influence.

While he may have no territorial ambitions, Turkey does have troops in northern Syria, is training militias in Iraq – to the growing concern of the government in Baghdad – and has hopes of turning itself into a regional energy hub, a crossroads between Russia, Iran and the East Mediterranean.

“He’s trying to exercise influence in the region by dint of Turkey’s large and powerful economy and its claim to be an Islamic power,” said Jeffrey. “There is a bit of going back to Ottoman times and going back to Turkish dominance of the region – he wants a more Islamic alternative to the West.”

It appears a popular formula. A poll in late July, two weeks after the coup attempt, showed Erdogan with two-thirds approval among Turkey’s 78 million people, his highest rating ever.

Yet in striving for that more self-confident and perhaps more feared Turkey, Erdogan has at times walked a thin line, straining ties with the European Union and the wider West, which are wary of what they see as his creeping authoritarianism.

Turkey’s $720 billion economy is fueled in large part by trade and investment with Europe. Its working week runs from Monday to Friday to align with business in London and New York, not the rest of the Muslim world. In theory, Turkey still plans to join the European Union and is a central player in NATO.

The country’s annual average growth rate has been tapering, to around 3 percent from 5 percent, and there is a need for a new impetus to bring unemployment down among millions of younger Turks. That requires staying open to the West.

Andrew Duff, a former member of the European Parliament who was vice-chairman of the Turkey-EU joint parliamentary committee, sees Erdogan as “entirely fickle” regarding Europe and focused for now on exploiting Islam and nationalism.

“I’m afraid this is only going to get worse,” said Duff, who has been accused by Turkish authorities of being a “Gulenist”, a charge he dismisses with a laugh. “I’m sure Erdogan’s aim is to remain in power at least until 2023, the centenary of the founding of the republic.”

Duff does not think Erdogan will pivot to the East permanently. But for now, Europe, NATO and the West find themselves with a volatile partner.

“From the historical point of view, it’s fascinating because Turkey is really poised,” said Aliriza. “Whether it continues to look to its nation-state past and its opening to the West, or a hoped-for glorious future in which Turkey will draw closer to its brethren in the East. It’s at a critical juncture.”

(Writing by Luke Baker; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Pravin Char)

Turkey to extend state of emergency for another three months

ANKARA (Reuters) – The Turkish government has agreed to extend its state of emergency as Turkey fights to wipe out “terrorist organizations” following July’s attempted coup, deputy prime minister and government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said on Monday.

Speaking at a press conference following the cabinet meeting, Kurtulmus said the extension will come into effect on October 19, when the first three months expire.

(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Luke Baker)

Turkey formally requests U.S. arrest of cleric Gulen over coup plot

U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 29, 2016.

ISTANBUL, Sept 13 (Reuters) – Turkey has made a formal request to the United States for the arrest of U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen on charges of orchestrating an attempted military coup on July 15, Turkish broadcaster NTV said on Tuesday.

Turkey blames members of Gulen’s religious movement for the failed putsch two months ago, in which rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and fighters jets, bombing parliament and seizing bridges in a bid to take over power.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan discussed the issue with U.S. President Barack Obama at the G20 summit in China earlier this month. A senior U.S. administration official said at the time that Obama had explained to Erdogan that the decision would be a legal, not a political one.

(Reporting by Seda Sezer and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Nick Tattersall)


Turkey removes more than 10,000 security personnel

People wave national flags as they wait for Turkey's President Erdogan arrival to the United Solidarity and Brotherhood rally in Gaziantep

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish authorities have suspended about 8,000 security personnel and more than 2,000 academics, adding to a purge of people suspected of having links to perpetrators of a failed coup, the Official Gazette said on Friday.

Since the coup attempt in mid-July, in which rogue soldiers tried to topple President Tayyip Erdogan’s government, Turkey has removed 80,000 people from public duty and arrested many of them, accusing them of sympathizing with the plotters.

Of the security personnel removed in the latest purge, 323 were members of the gendarmerie and the rest police, according to the Official Gazette, in which the government publishes new laws and orders.

It said 2,346 more academics had been removed from universities. Hundreds of academics and others have already been swept from their posts, accused of links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan says masterminded the coup.

About 3,300 judiciary officials have also been dismissed, leaving a depleted workforce to manage the legal process against a growing number of detainees.

The Gazette said retired judges and prosecutors would be allowed to return to work if they applied to do so in the next two months.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Writing by Edmund Blair; editing by John Stonestreet)

Turkey suspends 95 police as post coup crackdown rolls on

One of the eight Turkish soldiers, who fled to Greece in a helicopter and requested political asylum after a failed military coup against the government, is seen in a police car with his face covered.

ISTANBUL/ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish authorities suspended 95 Istanbul police officers, including police chiefs, on Monday, broadcaster CNN Turk reported, the latest steps in a sweeping crackdown to target security forces following a failed coup last month.

About 80,000 people in the police, military, judiciary and civil service have been sacked or suspended since the failed July 15 coup, when a group of rogue soldiers attempted to topple the government. Turkey says followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen were behind the attempt.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania since 1999, denies the charge and has condemned the coup.

The 95 officers were suspended from duty at Istanbul police headquarters in Istanbul, CNN Turk said. No one was immediately available for comment at the Istanbul police headquarters.

Separately, photos published by state-run Anadolu Agency showed lorries draped with Turkish flags hauling armored vehicles, covered in tarpaulin, out of barracks in Istanbul and Ankara, to be taken to locations outside the cities.

Under a decision taken after last month’s coup, all military barracks within the two cities are to be moved elsewhere by Sept. 11.

Istanbul and Ankara are to be transferred outside the cities by Sept. 11. Anadolu said armored vehicles from the 66th mechanized infantry brigade were transported out of the Bastabya barracks in Istanbul. It said the transfer of military vehicles would continue.

Coup plotters had commandeered vehicles from the Bastabya barracks on the night of the coup, sending them to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport and the police headquarters.

Turkey’s Supreme Military Council, which normally meets just twice a year, was to convene for the second time in a month on Tuesday as part of the government’s plan to overhaul the armed forces and bring it fully under civilian control.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim was to chair the council meeting, starting at 10 a.m. (0700 GMT) on Tuesday, sources from his office said. No statement has yet been issued on the agenda of Tuesday’s meeting.

(Reporting by Daren Butler and Ercan Gurses; Editing by David Dolan and Richard Balmforth)

Military attaches, diplomats flee Turkey’s post-coup inquiry

A view of the building of Turkish Embassy in Athens, Greece,

By Orhan Coskun and Ece Toksabay

ANKARA (Reuters) – Two Turkish military attaches in Greece fled to Italy, others were caught overseas and some diplomats were on the run after being recalled as part of an inquiry into last month’s failed military coup, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Thursday.

Turkey, which has NATO’s second-biggest armed forces, has dismissed or detained thousands of soldiers, including nearly half of its generals, since the July 15 coup bid, in which rogue troops commandeered tanks and warplanes in an attempt to seize power.

Western allies worry President Tayyip Erdogan is using the failed putsch and purge to tighten his grip on power. But many Turks are angered by what they see as a lack of Western sympathy over a violent coup in which 240 people died.

“Democracy rallies”, largely attended by Erdogan supporters but also some parts of the opposition, have been held night after night since the putsch. Pollster Metropoll said on Thursday its monthly survey showed a surge in approval for Erdogan to 68 percent in July from 47 percent a month earlier.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told private broadcaster NTV that two military attaches in Greece — a naval officer and an army officer — had fled by car and ferry to Italy, but that Turkish officials would seek their return.

Cavusoglu said a military attache based in Kuwait had also tried to escape through Saudi Arabia, but had been sent back, as well as two generals based in Afghanistan who had been caught in Dubai by UAE authorities and returned to Turkey.

The hunt for fugitive Turkish officers and officials overseas expands from the crackdown at home, where tens of thousands of troops, police, and bureaucrats have been detained, dismissed or investigated for alleged links to the coup, which authorities blame on U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen denies any involvement and has condemned the coup bid. But he says Erdogan is using the purges to shore up his own power in Turkey.


“There are those who have escaped. There have been escapees among our diplomats as well,” Cavusoglu told NTV in an interview. “As of yesterday, time has run out for those initially called back. We will carry out the legal operations for those who have not returned.”

Interior Minister Efkan Ala was quoted on Thursday as saying almost 76,100 civil servants have now been suspended.

The Greek foreign ministry said the two attaches fled before Ankara asked them to return to Turkey, and before officials canceled their diplomatic passports.

U.S. officials told Reuters this week that a Turkish military officer on a U.S.-based assignment for NATO is also seeking asylum in the United States after being recalled by the government.

A total of 160 members of the military wanted in connection with the failed coup are still at large, including nine generals, officials have said.

One official said the foreign ministry sent instructions to Turkish diplomatic missions around the world where those suspected of links to the plotters were thought to be working, ordering them back to Ankara as part of the investigations.

Five employees of Turkey’s embassy in the Netherlands were recalled on suspicion of involvement with the Gulen movement, the Turkish charge d’affaires told the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper this week.

“It wasn’t the cook or the servants,” Kurtulus Aykan, acting head of Turkey’s mission to the Netherlands, was quoted as saying. “These were high-ranking staff members. Talented people, with whom I had an excellent working relationship. I suspected nothing. That’s the talent of this movement. They infiltrate silently.”

Cavusoglu has previously said around 300 members of the foreign ministry have been suspended since the coup plot, including two ambassadors. He said on Thursday two officials in Bangladesh fled to New York, and another official had fled to Japan through Moscow.

“We will return these traitors to Turkey,” Cavusoglu said.


Erdogan accuses the U.S.-based cleric Gulen of staging the attempted putsch, harnessing his extensive network of schools, charities and businesses built up in Turkey and abroad over decades to create a “parallel structure”.

The abortive July 15 coup and the subsequent purge of the military has raised concern about the stability of Turkey, a key member of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State and battling an insurgency at home by Kurdish militants.

Turkey has been angered by the Western response to the attempted coup, viewing Europe as more concerned about the rights of the plotters than the events themselves and the United States as reluctant to extradite Gulen.

That has chilled relations with Washington and the European Union, bringing repeated Turkish warnings about an EU deal to stem the flow of migrants. Erdogan has also repaired ties with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, a detente Western officials worry may be used to pressure the West.

“Sooner or later the United States of America will make a choice. Either Turkey or FETO,” Erdogan told a rally late on Wednesday, using an abbreviation standing for the “Gulenist Terror Group” which is how Ankara refers to Gulen’s movement.

The purge inside Turkey also presses on. Turkey has canceled the work permits of 27,424 people working in the education sector as part of its investigations, Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz said on Thursday.

Ankara prosecutors on Thursday also ordered the detention of 648 judges and prosecutors suspended a day earlier, Hurriyet newspaper and broadcasters said. They are among 3,500 judges and prosecutors — a quarter of the national total — suspended in the coup probe, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.

(Additional reporting by Michele Kambas in Athens, Daria Sito-Sucic in Sarajevo, Thomas Escritt in Amsterdam; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Nick Tattersall)