Turkish Supreme Military Council replaces land, air and navy commanders

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey on Wednesday replaced the commanders of its army, air force and navy after their terms in office expired, reshuffling the top of a military that has been shaken by last year’s failed coup.

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Turkey’s armed forces - like the media, civil service and police - have been convulsed by the crackdown that followed the attempted putsch, when a group of rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and warplanes in an effort to topple the government.

All together, some 150,000 people have been sacked or suspended from their jobs and more than 50,000 detained. More than 8,000 military officers, including high-ranking commanders, have been accused of supporting the coup.

The heads of the three branches were replaced by other top members of the military, President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, told a news conference.

There was no suggestion that the three were being reshuffled due to the coup and Kalin thanked the commanders for their service.

The widely expected changes were announced after a meeting of the Supreme Military Council (YAS) chaired by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

Erdogan, with his roots in political Islam, has fought to tame the influence of a military long seen as the guardian of Turkish secularism and one that successfully brought down four governments in the second half of the 20th century.

Following the coup attempt, the YAS council was stacked with government ministers and Erdogan vowed to inject “new blood” into the military, NATO’s second largest.

Under the latest changes, the commander of the Turkish land forces, Salih Zeki Colak, was replaced by the head of the gendarmerie, Yasar Guler.

Naval commander Bulent Bostanoglu was replaced by Adnan Ozbal, a vice-admiral. Air Force commander Abidin Unal was replaced by Hasan Kucukakyuz, previously commander of the Turkish Warfare Air Force.

Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Alison Williams