Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ confirmed that Turkey's intelligence agency has so far brought back 80 members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) from 18 countries in a global manhunt. Bozdağ's comments, in an interview with Turkish broadcaster Habertürk mark the first time Ankara openly revealed the scope of its international operations against the terrorist group it blames for multiple coup attempts in the country. FETÖ, run by U.S.-based Fetullah Gülen, orchestrated the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that killed 249 people.
The attempt marked a turning point in the struggle against the group, known for its infiltrators in military, police and judiciary. Turkey has stepped up its crackdown on group's members since the attempt.
Both before and after the 2016 coup attempt, hundreds of FETÖ members fled abroad. Ankara now seeks more cooperation from the international community to bring them to justice. A recent joint operation between Kosovar security services and Turkey's National Intelligence Directorate (MİT) saw the arrest and deportation of six senior FETÖ members, who were visiting Kosovo at the time of the operation.
"It is a success story for MİT," Bozdağ said, underlining that such operations would continue. "So far, MİT brought back 80 FETÖ members to Turkey and the public knows about only a few operations. You know how they brought back [terrorist group's members] from Bulgaria and Malaysia but others are not publicly known due to the sensitivity of the issue," he said, referring to the other operations against Gülenists.
"The head of the terrorists in Pennsylvania [Gülen] is apparently panicked at our will and effort to bring them to justice. He should not feel comfortable there because our state will be after them wherever they go. They will be picked from the dens they hide in and will be handed over to Turkish justice," he said.
Media reports said that the country has so far identified some 4,600 suspected members of the group around the world. Turkish courts also sporadically issue arrest warrants for FETÖ members abroad. A court in Ankara has asked the Justice Ministry Wednesday to file extradition requests for 54 senior members of the group including Fetullah Gülen.
Ankara has long complained of reluctance from European countries and the U.S. to cooperate in the fight against FETÖ.
The terrorist group runs a global network of schools and companies. It has long disguised itself as a charity organization with religious affiliations before attempting to seize power in Turkey in 2013. FETÖ suspects mostly live in the U.S., Germany, Canada and the U.K. A majority of Turkey's allies in Africa and Asia have shut down FETÖ-linked schools and have already extradited wanted suspects.