133 suspects arrested in operations against FETÖ in Turkey

On Tuesday morning, a series of operations identified 133 suspects associated with the Güleniste (FETÖ) terrorist group across Turkey. The suspects included officials as well as former and active members of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), who were at the heart of a coup attempt by FETÖ infiltrators in the military on July 15, 2016.

The largest operation was based in the western province of Izmir. The Izmir General Prosecutor’s Office has ordered the arrest of 99 suspects as part of an investigation into a military network of FETÖ members. A total of 71 of the 99 wanted suspects were captured, while operations were underway to arrest the others. The investigation was based on the presence of FETÖ, even after the foiled coup attempt, in the army, and the investigators cooperated with the Ministry of National Defence, the local branch of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), Land and Naval Forces and Gendarmerie General Command of the Army for the investigation. Investigators say they have found evidence linking the suspects to the terror group, although the extent or content of the evidence is not yet clear. The suspects included 31 active duty soldiers, three former officers and 65 former cadets. The majority of the suspects were serving or former members of the Ground Forces Command.

In another Istanbul-based operation, security forces arrested 12 FETÖ suspects in the city, as well as in Erzurum and Bayburt provinces. The suspects were so-called “secret imams” of FETÖ, a name given to handlers of the group’s infiltrators in places like the military. They were accused of selecting young students loyal to the terrorist group and helping them get into military schools. The terrorist group has been indicted several times for its fraudulent tactics to infiltrate the military with its members. In addition to providing a place to prepare for military school exams and stay, in the form of their “study houses”, the terrorist group also used to provide questions and answers for these exams. in some cases, according to the confessions of former members. The military schools themselves, which were heavily reformed following the 2016 coup attempt, were partially staffed by FETÖ-linked officers, who favored other infiltrators and resorted to hazing and other tactics to expel other cadets. Security forces found “documents and digital evidence” linking suspects to FETÖ in search of the locations where the suspects were captured, security sources told media. The suspects are accused of having regularly contacted the FETÖ infiltrators via public telephones and an investigation into the telephone contacts of the infiltrators detained during previous operations helped in their discovery.

Payphones are a common method of communication for the secret FETÖ, but have also proven to be their downfall since the coup attempt was called off. Focusing their investigation on telephone booths in crowded places, the investigators managed to identify a large number of “imams” who telephoned the infiltrators to arrange secret meetings. Some suspects served as dog handlers while others simply provided a home for secret meetings. Among the suspects were several officials.

Another operation, also based in Istanbul, identified 12 of the 14 wanted suspects. The suspects were part of a FETÖ network dealing with “marriage” issues within the terrorist group. Operations took place in Istanbul, Aksaray, the capital Ankara, Antalya and Eskişehir to capture the suspects. They were identified through their correspondence through Bylock, an encrypted messaging application developed and used exclusively by members of the terrorist group. Two other suspects were abroad, security sources said. Dominating all aspects of its members’ lives, FETÖ also had “izdivaç” (marriage) networks where infiltrator managers “matched” members with each other or helped them “select” their future husband or wife.

In the capital Ankara, the public prosecutor’s office ordered the arrest of 34 suspects in an investigation into FETÖ infiltrators in the public sector. Twenty-nine of them were still working while others had previously been fired because they were suspected of having links with FETÖ. Thirty suspects have been captured so far in operations in Ankara and 18 other provinces. The suspects were identified through contact with their handlers through public phones, as well as information provided by former members of the terror group who collaborated with authorities after their capture.

In the western province of Balıkesir, the governorate announced that eight suspects linked to FETÖ had been arrested in connection with an investigation into a secret FETÖ network and all of them were civil servants, working in Balıkesir, Ankara, Bursa, Denizli and Kocaeli.

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Sharon P. Juarez