Turkey dismisses 1,400 troops as Erdogan tightens grip

AFP , Sunday 31 Jul 2016

Turkey dismisses 1,400 troops as Erdogan tightens grip
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends an interview with Reuters at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, July 21, 2016.Photo:Reuters

Turkey's government on Sunday dismissed nearly 1,400 military personnel, including a top aide to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the latest round of a sweeping purge following a failed coup.

The announcement in the official gazette came as Erdogan sought to tighten his grip over the country by bringing the armed forces and spy agency under his control.

The coup saw a rogue group within the military unsuccessfully attempt to depose Erdogan, who has since launched a huge crackdown on those suspected of complicity.

Erdogan's aide-de-camp Ali Yazici, who was arrested five days after the July 15 putsch, was among the 1,389 dismissed by a new decree in the official gazette.

Chief-of-staff Hulusi Akar's aide-de-camp Levent Turkkan and Defence Minister Fikri Isik's executive assistant Tevfik Gok were also discharged.

State-run news agency Anadolu said the soldiers were dismissed because of alleged links to the movement led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding coup.

Gulen strongly denies the charges.

The latest expulsions followed the dishonourable discharges of 149 admirals and generals -- almost half the military's entire contingent -- along with 1,099 officers and 436 junior officers.

Erdogan told the A-Haber television channel late Saturday that he wanted to introduce constitutional changes to bring the Turkish spy agency and military chief of staff directly under his control, which would need parliamentary approval.

The new degree also confirmed his announcement that a new national military university would be established within the defence ministry, while military schools and academies would be closed down.

Military hospitals are to come under the control of the health ministry.

Anadolu meanwhile said Turkey's deputy prime ministers and the ministers for justice, interior and foreign affairs have all become members of the Supreme Military Council, which determines the armed forces' agenda.

More than 50,000 people have lost their jobs nationwide and more than 18,000 have been detained since the coup, in which rebel soldiers came up against loyal supporters of the president.

In Germany, home to the biggest Turkish diaspora, tens of thousands of Erdogan's followers were due to rally later Sunday in the city of Cologne, where tensions over the coup have put authorities on edge.

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