Failed coup in Turkey: Men behind the attempt

Air force ex-chief to be charged with treason

Alleged coup mastermind Akin Ozturk commanded the Turkish air force until last year but remained a member of the Supreme Military Council.
Alleged coup mastermind Akin Ozturk commanded the Turkish air force until last year but remained a member of the Supreme Military Council.

Alleged mastermind among thousands of military personnel and judges detained

ISTANBUL • The alleged mastermind, General Akin Ozturk, 64, who commanded the Turkish air force until last year but remained a member of the Supreme Military Council, has been detained and will be charged with treason, officials said.

The Turkish authorities also rounded up nearly 3,000 suspected military plotters on Saturday and ordered thousands of judges and other members of the judiciary detained after Friday's coup bid.

Among those detained were General Erdal Ozturk, commander of the Third Army, Turkey's largest field army; General Adem Huduti, commander of the Second Army, which controls the country's borders; and a rear-admiral who had until recently commanded the coast guard.

Yesterday, reports said General Bekir Ercan Van, commander of Incirlik Air Base, has also been detained for complicity in the coup.

The air force appears to have been deeply involved, with pilots commandeering F-16 fighter jets and helicopters and seizing control of at least one military air base. Some personnel at Incirlik - a major Nato air base that is home to the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in Europe and about 1,000 US troops - are also suspected of taking part.

"We suspect that Incirlik was used to refuel hijacked aircraft last night," said a senior Turkish official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. It appears, he added, that "a small group of Turkish troops stationed at Incirlik supported the coup attempt".

The Turkish authorities also detained 2,475 judges and other members of the judiciary who were suspected of supporting what appeared to have been a far-reaching operation.

Evidence seized by investigators suggests that the coup plotters had drawn up extensive lists of people who were to be installed as governors, administrators and heads of government agencies in the event that the operation succeeded, according to the senior Turkish official.

The government is still not sure it has rounded up all the coup participants, and there are fears that "rogue" aircraft may still be on the loose, he said.

Meanwhile, Turkey has demanded the extradition of eight people who landed in a Black Hawk military helicopter in Greece and requested political asylum.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed the coup on supporters of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally who he now accuses of trying to foment uprising in the military, media and judiciary.

The US-led coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group has resumed air strikes from the Incirlik base that were suspended after the failed military coup, the Pentagon said.

"After close coordination with our Turkish allies, they have reopened their airspace to military aircraft," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement. "As a result, counter-ISIL coalition air operations at all air bases in Turkey have resumed," he added, using another acronym for ISIS.

Though the coup attempt failed, the incident will be a tremendous blow to the prestige of Turkey's military and, more broadly, Turkey's standing as a regional power, said Mr Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"The military was considered the most trusted institution in the country," he said. "The Turkish military will experience a free fall in its standing."

WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2016, with the headline 'Air force ex-chief to be charged with treason'. Print Edition | Subscribe