The Turkish intelligence organization flew three members of Gulen Movement from Gabon to Turkey in a new covert operation. As part of a secret mission carried out by the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT), the men were brought back to Turkey on a private plane from Libreville, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Ankara calls U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen‘s group the Fethullah Terror Organisation (FETO) but Gulen insists he runs a purely peaceful movement and denies any link to the failed plot.
The latest MIT swoop comes on the heels of the controversial expulsion of six Gulen group members from Kosovo in a similar operation.
Gulen’s group had built up influence in Turkey but also abroad — notably in Africa, the Balkans and Central Asia — in particular through an education network.
In Gabon operation, one of the detained was a school principal in Libreville and an education coordinator of Gulen schools operating across Kenya. The second arrested was also a school principal, while the third was director general of Gulen schools in Gabon.
The news agency reported some high-ranking Gulen movement members were detained on March 23 in a raid by the Gabon security forces. But there was no immediate information on Libreville’s role in the operation.
Gabon is ruled by President Ali Bongo Ondimba, the son of Omar Bongo Ondimba who governed the oil-rich nation for more than 41 years until his death in 2009. Ali Bongo Ondimba held talks with Erdogan in Ankara in 2015.
In March, five teachers and a doctor, all Turkish nationals perceived to be Gulenists, were flown back to Turkey from Kosovo in a hugely contentious operation carried out by the Pristina interior ministry and MIT. The operation sparked a crisis in Kosovo, with both the prime minister and president protesting that they were not informed.
The government said its intelligence agency had brought back from abroad a total of 80 suspected members of the Gulen movement, without elaborating further on the countries.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to hunt down Gulenists inside and outside Turkey, saying on Monday: “We will never allow those vile people to walk freely.”