Thirty-one suspects including three helicopter pilots were arrested yesterday in operations against the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). Police targeted FETÖ's military presence as the terrorist group is accused of employing its infiltrators to carry out a failed coup on July 15, 2016. The Chief Public Prosecutor's Office in the capital Ankara issued arrest warrants for 34 suspects in an investigation into the Turkish Armed Forces' Helicopter Command. A manhunt is currently underway to capture three other suspects.
The investigation focused on 33 military officers and one "imam," a non-military suspect accused of serving as FETÖ's handlers for military infiltrators. Suspects were identified because of their contact with their handler via payphones. It is one of many investigations launched across the country after the group's communication method involving payphones are uncovered. Hundreds were already detained in other investigations. The communication scheme involves handlers or officers calling a payphone number agreed upon previously. Payphones used for communication are usually located in busy public places to avoid detection. Handlers either relay instructions during short conversation on the phone or give code words for a secret meeting point to infiltrators.
Officials said 33 suspects detained or wanted in operations were active-duty soldiers and three were helicopter pilots. Others were mostly ground personnel in charge of maintaining and repairing helicopters. Security sources said yesterday that 1,553 military personnel linked to FETÖ were suspended from the army in the last 11 months. Some 879 were dismissed from the Land Forces, while 242 were suspended from the Navy and 432 from the Air Force. Additionally, some 151 retired soldiers' ranks were revoked over FETÖ links.