Turkey's crackdown on the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) blamed for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt targeted dozens of secret members yesterday. In nationwide operations, authorities issued detention warrants for dozens and captured at least 157 people. The suspects include soldiers still serving in the army who are accused of secretly contacting the group's point men in charge of its infiltrators in the army.
Istanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office has issued arrest warrants for 170 people as part of a probe into the "secret imams" of the group. The "secret imams" refer to the terrorist group's handlers of infiltrators in the army and other key institutions. The handlers are mostly civilians and oversee the daily affairs of the infiltrators. The suspects were discovered after their phone contacts with those "imams" from phone booths and landlines to avoid detection.
Twenty-two suspects were detained in 38 provinces when Daily Sabah went to print. Recently, investigators discovered that a phone line owned by a grocery store in Üsküdar, a district on Istanbul's Asian side, was used for contact between 264 people, including FETÖ's infiltrators in the military and the group's point men. Among them were 94 officers who were involved in the coup attempt that killed 249 people on July 15, 2016. Investigators say point men referred to as "imam" or "abi" (brother) called the group's military infiltrators to give them instructions on behalf of FETÖ's senior cadres and arranged meetings.
Thousands of people, mostly military officers, were dismissed from their posts or arrested after the putsch attempt was quelled. Authorities say FETÖ, led by U.S.-based former preacher Fetullah Gülen, masterminded the coup attempt that came three years after group's infiltrators in law enforcement and the judiciary tried to topple the government by imprisoning people close to the government. Although most people involved in the coup attempt were caught red-handed, a large number of high-ranking officers remain at large. Recent investigations and confessions by former FETÖ members unearthed that there was still a considerable number of FETÖ infiltrators in the military who did not actively participate in the coup attempt in 2016. Security forces carry out almost daily operations to capture the suspects.
In another operation launched after an investigation by the Chief Prosecutor's Office in the central city of Konya, police detained 47 people linked to the terrorist group. Most suspects were civilians, accused of being local point men for FETÖ. A suspect who was a former executive for the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) was among those detained and is accused of coordinating "student" recruits of the terrorist group.
In the southern city of Mersin, security forces detained 88 people for links to FETÖ. The suspects are accused of seeking new recruits and funds for the terrorist group which faced the biggest crackdown ever after the coup attempt. Some detainees were found in "gaybubet" (absence) houses, safe houses the group used to hide its fugitive members.
Another five people were detained in the western city of İzmir for membership of the terrorist group. One of them was the owner of a college and a university which were closed for their links to the terrorist group.
Since December 2013, when the terrorist group emerged as the perpetrator of two coup attempts, FETÖ has been regarded as a security threat. Prosecutors claim that the group's infiltrators in law enforcement, the judiciary, bureaucracy and the military had waged a long-running campaign to topple the government. The group is also implicated in a string of cases related to its alleged plots to imprison its critics, money laundering, fraud and forgery.