TURKEY’s top brass and political leaders were poised to launch a major overhaul of the armed forces on Thursday after a failed military coup that has shaken the nation of nearly 80 million people and alarmed its NATO allies.
Hours before the Supreme Military Council began its annual meeting in Ankara, the armed forces dishonorably discharged nearly 1,700 personnel for their alleged role in the July 15-16 putsch in which a faction of the armed forces tried to topple President Tayyip Erdogan.
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 dishonorable discharges included around 40 percent of Turkey’s admirals and generals.
Turkey accuses U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen of masterminding the coup and has suspended or placed under investigation tens of thousands of his suspected followers, including soldiers, judges and academics.
In the aftermath of the coup, media outlets, schools and universities have also been closed down.
As the crackdown widened, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that more than 300 personnel in his ministry had links to Gulen and that it had dismissed 88 employees.
Separately, Turkey’s biggest petrochemicals company Petkim said its chief executive had resigned and the state-run news agency Anadolu said he had been detained in connection with the failed coup.
Citing intelligence reports, Turkey’s justice minister said on Thursday that Gulen, once a powerful ally of Erdogan, could flee his residence in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Gulen denies any involvement in the coup.
Western governments and human rights groups have condemned the coup, in which at least 246 people were killed and more than 2,000 injured, but have also expressed concern over the scale and depth of the purges, fearing that Erdogan may be using them to get rid of opponents and tighten his grip on power.