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Turkey shakes up military as post-coup crackdown widens

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ANKARA, TURKEY: Turkey’s premier meets top military commanders on Thursday over one of the most radical shake-ups in the armed forces’ history after a failed coup, which has already seen 149 generals dishonourably discharged.

The hastily convened meeting of the Supreme Military Council (YAS) in Ankara will bring together Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and the land, sea and air force commanders, along with other top figures untarnished by the attempted power grab.

The gathering comes a day after the government dramatically stepped up its post-coup crackdown, announcing mass military dismissals and closing down dozens of media outlets.

Eighty-seven land army generals, 30 air force generals, and 32 admirals – a total of 149 – were dishonourably discharged over their complicity in the July 15 putsch bid, a Turkish official said, confirming a government decree.

In addition, 1,099 officers and 436 junior officers have also received a dishonourable discharge, the decree added.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who survived the biggest threat to his 13-year domination of the country when supporters countered the plotters on the streets, has blamed the attempted overthrow on US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

The authorities have since launched a relentless campaign to eradicate Gulen’s influence from Turkish institutions in a clampdown that has shaken every aspect of life in Turkey and led to the detention of nearly 16,000 people.

Media shuttered

The military has insisted that only a tiny proportion of the total armed forces – which number around three quarters of a million, the second-largest in NATO after the United States – took part in the coup.

But 178 generals have been detained, with 151 of them already remanded in custody, around half of the 358 generals serving in Turkey.

The media has also found itself in the firing line.

On Wednesday, three news agencies, 16 television stations, 23 radio stations, 45 newspapers, 15 magazines and 29 publishers, were ordered to shut down, the official gazette said.

It did not give the names of the media outlets to be closed, but according to a list obtained by the CNN-Turk channel they include mainly provincial titles as well as some well-known national media.

These include the Cihan news agency, the pro-Kurdish IMC TV and the opposition daily newspaper Taraf.

Also to be shut are the Zaman newspaper and its Today’s Zaman English language sister publication which, like Cihan, were part of a holding linked to Gulen until being put into state administration earlier this year.

Authorities handed out arrest warrants for 42 journalists earlier this week and on Wednesday issued another 47 for former staff of the once pro-Gulen Zaman newspaper.

Key military council

Turkey’s Supreme Military Council will decide Thursday on the personnel changes needed after the coup, with lower-ranking officers expected to be fast-tracked to fill the gaps in the top positions.

In a symbol of the military’s waning power, the meeting will be symbolically held at the Cankaya Palace of the Turkish premier in Ankara and not, as is customary, at military headquarters.

In the wake of the coup the military has already lost control of the coastguard and gendarmerie, which will now be dependent on the interior ministry.

The army said Wednesday that 8,651 of its military personnel had been involved in the coup – 1.5 per cent of its total number – along with 35 planes, 37 helicopters, 74 tanks and three ships.

Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who is Erdogan’s son-in-law, told reporters Gulen supporters had successfully infiltrated the armed forces and authorities had been planning to purge them ahead of the coup.

“Especially at the level of general, the problem is high. Quantity wise the problem is low,” he said.

Gulen, who says he runs a peaceful Islamic movement, has denied he was behind the coup and expressed hope that the United States would not give into Ankara’s pressure and extradite him.

Turkey has insisted all suspects will be given a fair hearing and an official said Wednesday almost 3,000 suspects have been released after being detained.

Some 50,000 state employees have lost their jobs since July 15, mostly in the education sector.

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