The Slatest

Erdogan Begins Promised Purge After Attempted Coup

Turkish military’s tanks seen on the road to the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey on Saturday.

Erhan Ortac/Getty Images

In the immediate aftermath of an attempted coup by some members of the military against his government, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the democratically elected and repressive president of Turkey, returned to Istanbul and called the insurgency a blessing. “This uprising is a gift from God,” he said, “because this will be reason to cleanse our army.”

He has already begun the so-called cleansing. At a press conference, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced that 2,839 military personnel have been detained for links to the coup that killed at least 265. So, too, has the government rid its judiciary board of five members (the board then went on to fire 2,745 judges).

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Though the military is often associated with the secular rule that came before Erdogan, the Turkish president placed blame not on secular opposition groups, but on Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric and former Erdogan ally who lives in exile in Pennsylvania. His group, the Alliance for Shared Values, “serves as a voice for civic and service organizations associated with the Hizmet social initiative in the U.S.” Erdogan has previously accused Gulen and his followers of trying to overthrow the government.

Gulen, for his part, issued a statement condemning the coup, one that, given Erdogan’s vow to make perpetrators pay heavily, is unlikely to save those of his followers the government deems guilty from arrest.

Update, 2:20 PM: CNN Türk reports that Erdogan has called on the U.S. to hand over Gulen to Turkey. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier that the U.S. would consider extradition if the Turkish government could provide evidence of wrongdoing.

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