Turkey detains ‘coup plotters’ at base used by US: Reports

People shout slogans and hold Turkish national flags during a demonstration, against the failed Army coup attempt, at Taksim Sqaure, in Istanbul, Turkey on July 17, 2016.
People shout slogans and hold Turkish national flags during a demonstration, against the failed Army coup attempt, at Taksim Sqaure, in Istanbul, Turkey on July 17, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

ISTANBUL (AFP) -  Turkish authorities have reportedly detained a senior air force general and other officers accused of backing the failed coup aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a key air base used by US forces for raids in Syria.

Brigadier air force general Bekir Ercan Van was detained along with over a dozen lower ranking officers on Saturday at the air force base of Incirlik in Turkey’s southern Adana province, newspapers including the Hurriyet daily said.

They were now being interrogated by investigators, the reports added.

A Turkish official told AFP on Saturday that Ankara suspected Incirlik was used to refuel military aircraft “hijacked” by the coup plotters on Friday night.  

The base has become a key hub for US forces after Turkey last year agreed to allow the United States to use Incirlik to carry out lethal raids against extremists in Syria.

But the Turkish authorities imposed a security lockdown on the base in the wake of the coup, allowing no movement in or out, the US consulate in Adana said.  

Meanwhile, operations from the Incirlik air base were suspended because of the closure of the airspace used for the missions, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement.

The Turkish government had said it detained almost 3,000 soldiers on suspicion of involvement in the putsch which began on Friday night but faltered already in the early hours of Saturday.

NTV television said that 34 generals of various grades had been detained so far. They include senior figures like Erdal Ozturk, commander of the third army and commander of the Malatya-based second army Adem Huduti.

The authorities have been carrying out raids at military bases across Turkey in search of those suspected of supporting the coup, which has claimed at least 265 lives.

In an operation early Sunday, at the garrison in the western town of Denizli, its commander Ozhan Ozbakir was detained along with 51 other soldiers, the state-run Anatolia news agency said.

The crackdown is however not restricted to the military and Anadolu said that prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for a total of 2,745 judges and prosecutors across Turkey.

It was not clear how many had been detained so far but the private Dogan news agency said 44 judges and prosectors were detained overnight in the central city of Konya and 92 in the southeastern city of Gaziantep.

The entire investigation is being led by Ankara prosecutors and those arrested are suspected of belonging to the group the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who Turkey accuses of masterminding the coup. Gulen denies the charges.

Turkey accuses Gulen of leading a group called the "Fethullahci Terror Organisation (FETO)" that has created a parallel state. Gulen's supporters say their group which they call Hizmet (Service) is entirely peaceful.

US President Barack Obama had warned Turkey there is a "vital need" for all parties to "act within the rule of law" in the aftermath of the coup.