Hunt for FETÖ abroad continues at full steam

YUNUS PAKSOY @yunuspaksoy
Published 21.08.2018 00:00

The Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which is responsible for the death of some 250 people in the bloody July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, runs an overwhelming network of schools, foundations and charity institutions all over the world. Having sowed the seeds of its broad organization through the globe decades ago, the terrorist groups finds itself well-connected in different parts of the world. That being said, the resolute battle of the Turkish government against each and every element of the secret cult wherever its militants might be poses a serious challenge to the perilous goals of the group.In fact, apart from the intense counterterrorism efforts against FETÖ at home, Turkish security and intelligence actors exert every effort to bring those affiliated with the cult to justice. Turkey monitors the activities of Gülenists in 160 countries. Through a focused inquiry in cooperation with intelligence services, the Foreign Ministry found 4,600 suspected members of the group in 110 countries, and until now more than 80 coup plotters have been brought back from 18 countries in a global manhunt.

Kosovo was among the countries in which a joint operation was conducted by the Turkish intelligence service together with the authorities of the respective country, extraditing six Gülenist executives in March, lowering the terrorist group's capabilities in the Balkan region. This was followed by three high-ranking FETÖ members with outstanding arrest warrants brought to Turkey from Gabon in April.

Turkey's successful overseas operations bore two more fruits last month as two high-ranking Gülenists were brought to the country from Azerbaijan and Ukraine. While the number of Gülenists brought to Turkey stands at 80 for the time being, Azerbaijani Envoy to Ankara Khazar Ibrahim told Daily Sabah recently that there were many more actions taken against the cult without the public knowing.

In addition to the overseas operations of the Turkish intelligence services in the hunt of Gülenists, other Turkish institutions are working around the clock to shut down FETÖ-affiliated schools. Currently, the Maarif Foundation, which is responsible for Turkey's education activities abroad, as well as the Education Ministry and the Foreign Ministry are working to take control of FETÖ-linked schools in African countries and elsewhere.

Ambassador Hasan Yavuz, vice president of the Turkish Maarif Foundation, told Daily Sabah that the fight has been intense and it will continue this way. "We have been fighting in Africa for over a year and steadily continuing the battle against FETÖ and its structure. FETÖ has used methods of lying and getting the global actors behind itself, and has established dangerous companies. And it made black propaganda against Turkey and the schools that we took over," he said.

Since its establishment, the foundation has made official contacts with 90 countries, appointed directors to 40 countries so far and currently runs more than 120 schools. Some 12 countries, including Niger, Chad, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, have handed over FETÖ-controlled schools, with more than 13,000 students, to the Maarif Foundation.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who, from the very first day, has asserted that he would fight to see the end of the bloody terrorist group, is adamant to drain the swamp. "We continue our struggle against FETÖ. We cannot overlook FETÖ's abuse of the legal system of South Africa. This organization is a dirty, treacherous structure that injects its poison. We will fight together against FETÖ in South Africa we will continue to support African countries until the last FETÖ member is caught," he said recently in South Africa, where the cult is dominant.

Ambassador Yavuz stressed that thousands of students have graduated from Maarif Schools in different countries and they are being prepared for a university education in Turkey. The vice president of the Maarif Foundation asserted that the fight against FETÖ and its affiliated schools and institutions in Africa will not allow any let up.

"We will continue to take over the remaining schools in countries decisively after the aid al-Adha. Recently in the democratic republic of Congo, despite the resistance of the FETÖ, we entered schools with the security forces and the elements of terror were cleaned. The flags of the two countries were raised, and now the schools will rapidly be handed over. We will quickly provide equipment, materials to meet the needs of the students," he said, adding that the school would be opened in September.

The ambassador noted that authorities and people across Africa have been very helpful and they have been supporting Turkey's fight against terrorism, including FETÖ-affiliated schools and institutions.

South Africa and Zambia are expected to be the next countries that collaborate with Turkey and the Maarif Foundation in the fight against FETÖ and their activities in the continent. In total, some 80 percent of Maarif's 13,000 students are from Africa.That being said, the efforts of the Maarif Foundation is not only limited to Africa. The Maarif Foundation has opened schools in many locations such as Gambia, Sierra Leone, Djibouti, Sao Tome, the U.S., Kosovo, Afghanistan, Georgia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Tanzania, Macedonia and northern Iraq. These schools currently offer education to 1,800 students.

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