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Turkey: Dozens of air force pilots detained

Turkey: Dozens of air force pilots detained

Ankara: Turkish armed force is the second largest in NATO, as they fight Islamic State and Kurdish militants in Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

Ankara: 45 air force pilots were detained by Turkish police on Thursday, the result of police operations after investigation of the historic failed coup which took place in July, the state-run news agency Anadolu said.

The operation targeting suspected followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for the coup, focused on an air base in the central province of Konya and spread across 17 provinces, the agency said.

Prosecutors issued detention warrants for a total of 71 lieutenants and two colonels, it said.

Meanwhile, other media reports said more than 200 soldiers and civilians had been detained in coup-related operations on Thursday.

The failed coup, in which opposition soldiers commandeered fighters jets and tanks in a bid to seize power, alarmed the Turkish armed forces, the second largest in NATO, as they fight Islamic State and Kurdish militants in Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

Since July, Turkey has arrested 35,000 people and sacked or suspended more than 100,000 others in the military, police, judiciary, civil service and elsewhere .

Those detained on Thursday were accused of “armed rebellion against the Turkish Republic” and membership of what Ankara calls the Gulenist Terror Organisation, the privately-owned Dogan news agency said. They bring to more than 300 the number of pilots dismissed or arrested in the coup investigation.

The government is working on projects to cover the sudden shortage in air force pilot numbers and will seek to draw back pilots from civil aviation, the Haberturk newspaper said on Thursday.

Police last week detained 47 soldiers in a similar operation focused on the Konya base, in which 29 were subsequently remanded in custody, Dogan said.

Turkish officials have said the interior ministry has actively put efforts to purge the police and state institutions after the appointment at the end of August of a new minister, Suleyman Soylu, seen as close to President Tayyip Erdogan.

The government says the actions are justified as the country saw more than 240 deaths in the failed coup on July 15.