ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish authorities have ordered the detention of 192 military personnel in operations targeting suspected supporters of a U.S.-based Muslim cleric accused of orchestrating a failed coup two years ago, authorities and media said on Wednesday.
One former brigadier general and 30 pilots were among 99 members of the air force facing possible charges in an investigation launched by Ankara prosecutors and spread across 20 other provinces, the prosecutors’ office said.
It said the detainees were suspected of being in contact with the network of the cleric, Fetullah Gulen, and of communicating with it via periodic pay phone calls, a method believed to be used by the supporters of the group.
In a separate series of operations, authorities ordered the detention of 93 personnel from the army, navy and coastguard, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Authorities have regularly conducted such sweeps against alleged supporters of Gulen since the coup attempt in July 2016, in which 250 people were killed. Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, denies involvement.
On Tuesday Turkish authorities ordered the detention of 132 people in nationwide operations.
In total, Turkey has detained some 160,000 people and dismissed nearly the same number of state employees since the coup attempt, the United Nations said in March. Of those, more than 50,000 have been formally charged and are being kept in jail during trial.
Turkey’s Western allies have criticized the scale of the crackdown.
Critics of President Tayyip Erdogan accuse him of using the failed putsch to quash dissent. Turkey says the measures are necessary to combat threats to national security.
Erdogan won a further five years in power in Turkey’s presidential election on Sunday. He has also gained sweeping new powers under a constitutional revamp that took effect after the election.
Reporting by Umit Bektas and Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Gareth Jones