Security forces apprehended seven people linked to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) on Friday as they were trying to flee into Greece, the latest instance of massive escape by members of the terrorist group following a 2016 coup attempt it had carried out.
Five suspects were police officers who were dismissed from law enforcement duties and were being investigated for suspected ties to FETÖ. They boarded a boat from the coast of Ayvalık, in northwestern province of Balıkesir and headed to the Greek island of Lesbos. Acting on a tip, the Turkish Coast Guard intercepted the boat off the Çıplak island in the area, before they reached Greek territorial waters. All suspects were remanded in custody. Two other people detained in connection with the attempt are facing charges of "migrant" smuggling for organizing the journey.
Over 8,000 FETÖ members have crossed into Greece in the past three years, and Turkey has criticized the country for ignoring Ankara’s calls for international cooperation against the terrorist group. Turkey has repeatedly accused Greece of being a haven for terrorists who committed crimes against Turks. Athens recently angered Ankara over a string of asylum decisions and the release of terrorist suspects wanted by Ankara.
The number of FETÖ members hoping to cross into Greece increased following the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, which killed 251 people and injured nearly 2,200 others. FETÖ was behind the coup attempt, which was carried out by its infiltrators in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).
Security forces had apprehended tens of thousands of people since the coup attempt was quelled. Operations are carried out almost on a daily basis to detain and arrest suspects linked to the group. Though most senior members of FETÖ fled abroad before the coup attempt, its infiltrators still remain prevalent in the army, law enforcement and other institutions, as investigations indicate.
On Friday, 22 suspects accused of giving financial support to the terrorist group were captured in operations by Istanbul police. Five others wanted in the probe remain at large. Suspects were former staff of Kaynak Holding, a business conglomerate whose control was transferred to a board of trustees for its links to the terrorist group. Suspects had withdrawn loans from different banks and transferred them to Bank Asya, a now-defunct lender associated with FETÖ, according to security sources. Bank Asya, before its closure, was in dire straits due to an investigation by security forces and the terrorist group's leader, Fetullah Gülen, had called upon his followers to endorse the bank.
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