Turkey attaches in Greece 'fled to Italy' after coup

AFP , Thursday 11 Aug 2016

Greek policemen check a Turkish Blackhawk helicopter after landing at the airport of Alexandroupolis, northeastern Greece, on Saturday, July 16, 2016. (Photo: AP)

Two Turkish military attaches posted in Greece fled to Italy at the weekend following last month's failed coup, Turkey's top diplomat said Thursday, saying Ankara was working to track them down.

The two missing envoys are among several Turkish officials posted abroad who Ankara is seeking to locate over their alleged links to the July 15 coup.

Speaking to NTV television, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said colonels Halis Tunc and Ilhan Yasitli left on August 6, taking the car ferry across the Adriatic Sea to Italy.

"We are working to bring both these traitors back to Turkey," he said, without detailing the allegations against the men.

"The Greek authorities recorded this. Tunc's brother lives in Holland. We are working with both the Netherlands and Italy," he said.

Earlier this week, media reports said the pair had gone missing. Yasitli is reported to be the overall military attache and Tunc the naval attache. Their accreditation to Athens has now been cancelled.

A Greek government source told AFP that Athens was aware of the case but had not been tipped off about the attaches before they fled.

"The two attaches left the country before the Turkish authorities went looking for them," said the source. "And before we were informed that their diplomatic passports had been revoked."

Turkey has embarked on a wholesale purge of the military in the wake of the coup which was blamed by Ankara on followers of the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

The two Athens-based attaches are among several Turkish officials based abroad now wanted by Ankara in the wake of the coup.

"There are people who escaped and some of our diplomats are among them," said Cavusoglu.

"For example two officials based in Bangladesh have escaped to New York," he said, adding that an ultimatum for them to return had expired.

In a separate case that has strained improving ties between Ankara and Athens, eight Turkish military officers fled by helicopter to Greece after the failed coup of July 15. To block their deportation back to Turkey, they have applied for asylum.

They have been handed suspended two-month prison terms for illegal entry and will remain in police custody until their asylum hearing on August 19.

Two Turkish generals serving in the NATO force in Afghanistan were also detained in Dubai last month on suspicion of links to the failed coup.

Cavusoglu revealed they had been detained by the UAE authorities and extradited to Turkey aboard a special flight.

He also confirmed Saudi authorities detained the Turkish military attache to Kuwait, thanking Riyadh for its help in delivering him back to Turkey.

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