Crackdown nets 31 military officers in FETÖ's Air Force network

Published 01.01.2019 00:34
Updated 01.01.2019 10:26

Police in the capital Ankara arrested 31 suspects, all active-duty military officers, in yesterday's operations against the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). The suspects were among 60 wanted for being part of the terrorist group's network of infiltrators in the Turkish Air Forces. Operations were underway to capture the remaining suspects.

Among those with arrest warrants were four colonels and eight pilots, while others were officers in lower ranks. The suspects were identified through their contact with civilian point men of FETÖ via payphones, a method commonly employed by the terrorist group to avoid detection.

The terrorist group, which is blamed for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that killed 251 people, is accused of employing its infiltrators from the air, land, naval and gendarmerie forces of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to overthrow the government. The attempt failed due to a strong public resistance against putschists and tens of thousands of people were detained or arrested in its aftermath. Media reports say that 16 out of 72 people detained in operations against infiltration in the Air Force earlier this month invoked the remorse law that grants them a reduced prison term in exchange of information on FETÖ. They gave the names of "imams" that were assigned to them to police investigators, media reports said.

The Air Force was key in the coup attempt and airstrikes by putschists initially gave the impression that the coup would succeed. A large number of people were killed in airstrikes near the presidential complex in Ankara and the bombing of Parliament further increased panic in the country. Still, a call by the country's leader to "take to the streets to reclaim democracy" was met with a massive response, ultimately forcing the putschists to surrender in the face of public outrage.

Kemal Batmaz, the chief "imam" for FETÖ's Air Force infiltrators, remains in prison. Batmaz was one of several nonmilitary figures caught in Akıncı, an airbase that FETÖ used as a launch pad for airstrikes in Ankara during the coup attempt. He was also a coconspirator of the putsch bid along with Adil Öksüz, a fugitive FETÖ member, on behalf of Fetullah Gülen, the U.S.-based leader of the terrorist group.

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