Police on Friday detained 100 active-duty officers from the Air Force in nationwide operations against the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). Suspects are accused of links to the group which faces charges of using its infiltrators in the military to carry out the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. At least 250 people were killed in the attempt that was quelled within hours thanks to strong public resistance.
The Chief Prosecutor's Office in the capital Ankara issued detention warrants for suspects as part of a probe into FETÖ's use of pay phones for secretly communicating with its infiltrators in the military. Three colonels were the highest-ranking suspects among those with outstanding detention warrants. Five among the suspects were pilots and others were mostly ground personnel. Security sources said two wanted suspects were found to have fled abroad.Six suspects were detained at İncirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana. The NATO base near the border with Syria is primarily used by the U.S. Army. Bekir Ercan Van, a Turkish general stationed at the base, was among those arrested immediately after the coup attempt on charges of carrying out the coup.
Operations started earlier this year against FETÖ military infiltrators who used pay phones to get in touch with their handlers, while hundreds had already been detained in previous nationwide operations. Investigations are still underway, and more infiltrators are expected to be detained in the coming days. FETÖ, which expanded its clout in Turkey over the past three decades, is known for its wide network of infiltrators in law enforcement, the military, the judiciary and bureaucracy. Through its infiltrators in the police and judiciary, it first tried to topple the government in 2013 but failed. It tried again on July 15, 2016, this time using its members in the military. Strong public resistance thwarted the coup attempt.
The state of emergency declared after the coup attempt sped up the crackdown on the terrorist group's infiltrators. Tens of thousands were detained or arrested and dismissed from their jobs in the public sector after the attempt. Some FETÖ members managed to flee abroad, while others are believed to still be hiding their ties to the group. Fetullah Gülen, the U.S.-based leader of the terrorist group, is known for instructing his followers to disguise themselves. Several former members confessed to authorities that senior figures of the group trained them on how to avoid being detected while serving in the army, law enforcement or judiciary. FETÖ claims to be an Islamic movement and was identified as such, still calling itself the Hizmet (Service) Movement; thus, its infiltrators were told to abstain from anything that would associate them with Islam, such as prayers and wearing headscarves, and were urged to pretend to drink alcohol.
Along with operations to capture secret Gülenists in the army, Turkey tries hundreds involved in the coup attempt and the government has announced that courts were expected to wrap up the majority of trials by the end of this year. A total of 32,370 people are being held and incarcerated in FETÖ cases in 289 trials directly related to the coup attempt. Of this number, 203 have concluded so far with a total of 2,619 people having been found guilty while 1,760 have been sentenced to life imprisonment.