In several simultaneous operations across Turkey, security forces on Tuesday arrested 92 suspects associated with the Güleniste (FETÖ) terrorist group. Other suspects are wanted in operations based in the capital Ankara and the western province of Izmir.
In Izmir, the General Prosecutor’s Office has issued arrest warrants for 60 suspects, and among them, 44 suspects have been detained so far in the city and 25 other provinces. The suspects were former soldiers and former cadets who were expelled from military schools on suspicion of having links to the terrorist group.
The prosecutor’s office said the arrests were the culmination of an investigation into the activities of a terrorist group within the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). Prosecutors cooperated with the Ministry of Defence, the local branch of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), ground forces, naval forces, air forces and army gendarmerie commands to detect the suspects. The majority of the suspects sought and arrested were former active members of the naval forces. Military cadets were expelled from their schools following the July 15, 2016 coup attempt perpetrated by FETÖ military infiltrators.
In Ankara, two investigations targeted a similar network of FETÖ infiltrators. In an investigation, the attorney general’s office has issued arrest warrants for 53 suspects and 48 of them have been detained so far. The suspects were former and current public sector employees, prosecutors said in a statement, although it was not disclosed which public agencies they worked at. Their links to FETÖ were discovered when they contacted known “imams” (managers of FETÖ for its infiltrators) through phone calls and had testimonies from former members against them. Some were in possession of Bylock, an encrypted messaging application developed and exclusively used by the terrorist group. Thirty-one suspects have already been expelled from their jobs for links with the group while 21 others remain on duty.
Another Ankara-based investigation focused on the infiltration of a terrorist group into the army’s ground forces branch. Arrest warrants were issued for 21 suspects and a manhunt was underway in the capital and five other provinces to capture them. One of the suspects was FETÖ’s “secret imam”, prosecutors said, while the others were nine military officers, including two active-duty officers and eleven former cadets. The suspects were detected through their phone contacts.
FETÖ has been at the center of law enforcement operations almost daily since the 2016 coup attempt. More than 10,000 former and active members of TSK are under criminal investigation as part of investigations national authorities and others were detained or arrested immediately after the attempted coup.
Senior FETÖ officials fled the country before and after the attack. The authorities believe that a large number of members, especially infiltrators in the army, who managed to conceal their links with FETÖ, are still working to revive the terrorist group.
According to an investigation made public in December 2020 and conducted by Istanbul’s General Prosecutor’s Office, the terrorist group began infiltrating the TSK more than four decades ago. Based on a report prepared by the Gendarmerie, 22 of 239 students who graduated from military schools between the 1970s and 1990s were charged with involvement in the 2016 coup attempt, while 58 others were charged. under investigation for membership of FETÖ following the failed coup attempt.
The group had previously been designated a national security threat after its two similar coup attempts disguised as “corruption investigations”.