Turkey suspends another 2,000 education staff for alleged links to failed coup

A policeman stands atop of a military armored vehicle after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey suspended nearly 2,000 teachers and school employees on Wednesday, an official from the Ministry of Education said, as part of the widening purge that has followed a failed coup in July.

More than 125,000 people have been dismissed from the police, the military, the judiciary, the civil service or the education system, and almost 40,000 arrested, for alleged connections with the coup attempt, during which at least 240 people were killed.

The official told Reuters that 1,980 teachers and school employees had been suspended pending investigation. No other information was immediately available.

Turkey says followers of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen have infiltrated state institutions and plotted to overthrow the government. On Wednesday, President Tayyip Erdogan said that the 22-year-old police officer who assassinated Russia’s ambassador in Ankara this week was also one of Gulen’s followers.

Gulen himself has condemned the coup and the assassination and denied any involvement.

Rights groups and some of Turkey’s Western allies fear that Erdogan is using the coup as a pretext to crack down on dissent.

Authorities have also arrested 140 journalists and closed down 177 media outlets, although 11 were subsequently reopened. More than 2,000 schools, universities and dormitories have also been shut down.

Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Kevin Liffey