Fifteen former colonels and lieutenant colonels were detained yesterday in nationwide operations against the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). The suspects were among 25 Air Force officers wanted by the police upon orders of the Chief Prosecutor's Office in the capital Ankara. Operations were underway to capture the other suspects, including majors and captains.
FETÖ is accused of orchestrating the July 15, 2016 coup attempt through its infiltrators in the military; 250 people were killed during the attempt, the bloodiest in recent memory in a country accustomed to multiple coups since the inception of the Republic.
Investigators detected the suspects through Bylock, an encrypted messaging app exclusively used - and believed to be developed - by FETÖ as all had it installed in their smartphones. It is unclear whether they corresponded over the app. The app is mainly used to relay messages from FETÖ's leadership to those in lower ranks. Sifting through millions of messages, investigators earlier discovered that some group's members openly discussed an imminent coup months before the infiltrators sought to seize power.
FETÖ's infiltrators managed to hide themselves after the coup attempt. Those captured in yesterday's operations were infiltrators who used payphones to contact their civilian handlers in FETÖ to avoid detection. Authorities carry out almost daily operations to capture the group's military infiltrators after their scheme to dodge their pursuers through contacting only via payphones and other discreet methods were discovered in the aftermath of the coup attempt.
The captured suspects include 11 pilots. Eleven others were earlier dismissed from the army under a state of emergency decree following the coup attempt. Pilots played a main role in the coup attempt as putschists launched airstrikes targeting Parliament in Ankara as well as crowds gathered near the Presidential Complex. Warplanes were also used for sonic booms to instigate fear among civilians gathered across the country to confront the putschists. The coup was quelled thanks to strong resistance by the public, which heeded calls by the country's president and prime minister "to take to the streets to reclaim democracy."