Police found broken cellphones scattered on the streets and bookcases full of Gülenist books in a string of raids in the western city of İzmir in a rare weekend operation on Sunday. Operations targeted "gaybubet" (absence) houses, safe houses used by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), and netted 72 suspects including high-ranking members. It was the latest in a wave of operations against the group blamed for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that killed 250 people.
Early Sunday, counterterrorism and financial crimes police units stormed 118 locations in the third largest city, which is located on Turkey's Aegean coast. Suspects were wanted by the local Chief Prosecutor's Office investigating safe houses and their occupants. Among those detained were the "provincial imam" of Izmir for the group and "secret imams" for FETÖ's hidden network in law enforcement and the Turkish Armed Forces. "The imam" refers to group's senior members in charge of infiltrators in the Turkish National Police or the army. It was imam cadres who orchestrated the 2016 coup attempt by putschist troops.
Security forces dealt a major blow to the terrorist group after the coup attempt and detained or arrested thousands in nationwide operations. Still, the group seeks to recover. Those captured in Izmir were among those trying to revive the group. Along with the Izmir imam, former imams for the group's members in the cities of Ağrı, Ardahan and Trabzon, who went into hiding in the wake of the coup attempt, were captured in Izmir.
As police raided the locations, suspects hurled their cellphones out the windows. Policemen collected 12 broken cellphones on the street. Police sources say suspects were already on alert against possible police operations, and they found documents with instructions on how to act in case of a police raid. One measure for Gülenists was apparently destroying cellphones containing encrypted messages between group members and instructions by senior cadres. One document shows how a cellphone user can delete all the files and encrypted messaging app with one click, while another urges them not to answer police questions. In some raids, memory cards hidden in secret places in the houses were discovered. In most houses, police found books penned by renowned Gülenists, including the group's fugitive leader, Fetullah Gülen.
Police also found a large cache of Turkish liras, U.S. dollars and euros in the houses. Money is used to help families of already jailed FETÖ members as well as financing safe houses. The Ihlas News Agency reported that one of the locations raided by police was a multi-story apartment complex where all apartments were occupied by suspects. One suspect detained in the raids was a police officer wanted for his links to the group. The unidentified officer was staying in the safe house prior to his planned escape abroad.
Operations also revealed that the terrorist group was still recruiting young men between the ages of 12 and 18 and accommodating them in their so-called "houses of light" where 33 children were found. Security sources said the children were brainwashed and instructed to study for professions the terrorist group wanted. Those trying to leave the houses were beaten by senior FETÖ members, Anadolu Agency (AA) reported. The terrorist group long relied on recruits who were introduced to the group at an early age to do its dirty deeds as future infiltrators in law enforcement, the military, the judiciary and bureaucracy. Most putschist soldiers detained during the coup attempt were those recruited by the group before they were enrolled in military schools. Some confessed how "brothers," their handlers for FETÖ, instructed them and monitored every aspect of their life to ensure their loyalty to the terrorist group.