In a new wave of nationwide operations against the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) Tuesday, a total of 128 suspects were detained. Police raided several locations across the country for separate investigations into the terrorist group, which is the culprit of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
The biggest operation was based in the western province of Izmir where multiple investigations targeted the group’s infiltration into the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). Prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 132 suspects in 40 provinces and 94 among them were detained while a manhunt is underway for the others. Among those wanted are active-duty military officers who are accused of a far-reaching network of infiltrators of the terrorist group in the army. The suspects were identified through their contacts with their “civilian” handlers for FETÖ through payphones, a common tactic among terrorist group members to avoid detection.
Police and in some places and gendarmerie forces in others, raided houses in the early hours of Tuesday to capture the suspects, who also included handlers known as “imams” in FETÖ jargon. Authorities said three colonels, two lieutenant colonels and military officers of lower ranks were among those wanted and detained. The suspects were from almost all branches of the TSK, including the air force, naval forces and gendarmerie general commands. Thirty-four among them were former military cadets who were expelled from military schools following the coup attempt on suspicion of association with the terrorist group.
In the capital Ankara, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office ordered the arrests of 11 suspects from a “civilian” network of FETÖ, and seven among them were detained. The office said in a statement that the suspects held various positions within the group, including “student handlers,” “marriage handlers” and “teachers,” referring to senior members of the group arranging everything from instilling terrorist group’s ideology in new recruits to picking who they marry. All were users of Bylock, an encrypted messaging app developed and exclusively used by the group’s members.
Another operation based in Istanbul led to arrests of 11 out of 13 wanted suspects. The suspects were Bylock users, and their connection with the group was identified through it.
ByLock was discovered during criminal inquiries into the terrorist group, whose criminal activities have been under the spotlight since two coup attempts in 2013. The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) uncovered the messaging app and a ByLock investigation was expanded after the coup attempt. Thousands of people were found to have been using the messaging app for terrorist group leader Fetullah Gülen, communicating messages to subordinates and for pro-terrorism propaganda.
Servers of the app deployed in Lithuania were brought to Turkey where teams from the intelligence service decoded them. Prosecutors have launched investigations on thousands of suspects, ranging from shopkeepers to high-ranking generals and bureaucrats, housewives and prominent businesspeople detained for exchanging messages via ByLock for acts of terrorism.
In Turkey's northwestern province of Edirne, another operation against FETÖ netted 16 suspects. Prosecutors in the province had earlier launched an investigation into the group’s secret members. Among the arrested suspects were doctors, academics, teachers and lawyers.
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