TURKISH citizens and police have ‘surrounded’ the Incirlik air base it operates with the United States — and where a large stockpile of NATO nuclear weapons is held — ahead of a visit by a senior US official tomorrow.
Reports out of Turkey suggest all entrances to the air base have been blocked by heavy vehicles and police sent to secure its peremiter.
The unusual nigh-time move sparked rumours of a second coup attempt on Turkish social media, with concerned citizens rushing to the air base to join the blockade.
The move comes less than a week after a top US Army general was accused by Turkish media of ‘leading’ the uprising against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this month.
But Turkish Minister for European Affairs has since reportedly sought to reassure local media, stating the mission was just a “safety inspection”.
Regional Governor Ahmet Cina has told Turkish news services: “Everthing is normal and controlled. There is no movement of our troops.”
US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford is due to fly in for an inspection of the air base later today. He is also expected to hold talks with the Turkish government in Ankara.
Last week, General Dunford labelled Turkish claims that a retired US general was behind the coup as “absurd”.
The Turkish Hurriyet news service reported Turkish authorities had responded to “intelligence reports” by ordering the move about 11pm Turkish time.
It states ‘riot police’ and armed vehicles have ‘taken precautions’ around the base.
The air base has been a central facility in US and NATO efforts against Islamic State. It also houses a stockpile of nuclear weapons as part of NATO’s deterrence force.
Several of the aircraft used by coup forces during the failed uprising flew out of the Incirlik air base, which then had its power supply cut off for several weeks.
ARMED FORCES ‘REINED-IN’
Turkey will shut down its military academies and put the armed forces under the command of the defence minister, President Tayyip Erdogan said in a move designed to bring the military under tighter government control after a failed coup.
The changes come after more than 1700 military personnel were dishonourably discharged for their role in the abortive July 15-16 putsch. Erdogan, who narrowly escaped capture and possible death on the night of the coup, told Reuters in an interview last week that the military, NATO’s second-biggest, needed “fresh blood”.
The dishonourable discharges included around 40 per cent of Turkey’s admirals and generals.
Turkey accuses US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the putsch, in which a faction of the military commandeered tanks, helicopters and fighter jets and attempted to topple the government. Erdogan has said 237 people were killed and more than 2100 wounded.
Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States for years, denies the charge and has condemned the coup.
So far, more than 60,000 people in the military, judiciary, civil service and schools have been either detained, removed or suspended over suspected links with Gulen.
Turkey’s Western allies condemned the attempted putsch, but have been rattled by the scale of the resulting crackdown.
Both the general staff and the intelligence agency now report to the prime minister’s office. Putting them under the president’s overall direction would be in line with Erdogan’s push for a new constitution centred on a strong executive presidency.
Erdogan also said that a total of 10,137 people have been formally arrested following the coup.
An suspected coup leader, Turkey’s Second Army Commander General, Adem Huduti has been arrested by Turkish authorities.
Earlier media reports suggested that the coup attempt was led by Akin Ozturk, an ex-Commander of Turkish Air Force.
A total of 33 people, including a number of central governors, were detained on July 31 as a part of the investigation into the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), which was blamed for the failed coup attempt on July 15.
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 44 people, including central governors, deputy governors, legal advisers and civil inspectors, as part of the investigation.
Police detained 33 suspects, including some central governors, while also carrying out searches and confiscating items at marked addresses.
Turkish authorities say an operation outside the Aegean resort town of Marmaris has resulted in the capture of nine people suspected of being part of a group that raided a hotel at which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been staying during the July 15 attempted coup.
A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said three suspects were still on the run early Monday.
Erdogan had been on vacation in Marmaris when the coup attempt occurred. A group of soldiers that raided his hotel is believed to have missed the president by an hour or less.
The night-time operation used drones and helicopters to pinpoint the location of the men, the official said, adding that authorities had been notified by a group of local boar-hunters.
By Tess Owen
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan assumed full control over the country’s armed services on Sunday, with a decree designed to help him consolidate power in the wake of the failed military coup earlier this month.
The decree gives Erdogan and prime minister Binali Yildrim the power to issue direct orders to army, navy and air force commanders. Military academies will be closed and replaced with a national defense university, with the idea of bringing the armed forces fully under civilian control. The coup that failed between July 15 and 16 was the fifth intervention by the military in government since 1960.
The crackdown also brings under the president’s control the country’s intelligence service, which is accused of having missed signs of the impending coup.
“We are going to introduce a small constitutional package (to parliament) which, if approved, will bring the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and chief of staff under the control of the presidency,” Erdogan said on Sunday during an interview with Haber TV.
Related: Turkish academics talk about living in fear: ‘It’s the final stage of a witch hunt’
There was also a major shake-up within the structure of Turkey’s armed services. Erdogan fired almost 1,400 members of the armed services for their suspected ties to Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, Erdogan’s arch-nemesis, whom he accuses of masterminding the failed attempt to overthrow his leadership.
He also announced that commanders on the supreme military council (YAS) will be replaced by government ministers – a move which could potentially affect the conflicts that Turkey is involved in, against Kurdish militants in the country’s southeast and against the Islamic State.
The latest mass dismissal of soldiers follows weeks of a sweeping purges. Last week, more than 1,700 members of the armed services were discharged for their alleged role in the coup attempt.
Related: Turkey’s Erdogan issues emergency decree extending detention, closing charities and schools
Erdogan’s heavy-handed response to the coup attempt has drawn criticism from his western allies. More than 60,000 Turks from the military, judiciary, academia and civil service have been caught in the dragnet so far, being detained, dismissed from their position or placed under investigation, again over their suspected links to Gulen.
Erdogan has continued his calls for the US to extradite Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania in self-imposed exile.
At least 246 people were killed and 2,000 injured in the coup attempt, as Erdogan called on Turks to go into the streets and defend the government from insurgent soldiers. After a night of blood and chaos, the coup failed and Erdogan made a defiant speech in Istanbul, in which he condemned the “act of treason and rebellion.”
(CNN) Fethullah Gulen, the reclusive cleric accused by Turkey of hatching a military coup attempt, concedes that his supporters could have been involved in the putsch but again denied any direct connection.
“There might have been some sympathetic people [to me] among them,” he told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview.