In Global Manhunt, Ankara Says Brings 80 Gulenists Back to Turkey

After a relentless manhunt at a global scale, the Turkish authorities were able to bring back 80 Gulenists from a number of countries, displaying its zeal to go after members of Gulen movement.

The Turkish government embarked on an ambitious hunt to wipe out the influence of the movement of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen not just in Turkey but also in foreign states, where it built up substantial influence especially in education.

Turkey calls Gulen’s group the “Fethullah Terror Organization (FETO)” and accuses it of being behind the July 15 coup bid. Gulen denies the charges, insisting he runs a peaceful movement known as Hizmet (Service).

“The MIT (National Intelligence Organisation) has so far taken 80 FETO members from 18 countries and brought them back to Turkey,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag, also government spokesman, was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Turkey has chased Gulen members inside and outside the country since the failed coup, with Erdogan pledging to clean the state institutions from the “virus” of Gulen.

However, the figure of 80 disclosed by Bozdag is much larger than previously assumed and indicates MIT has had suspects taken in in the past without the information being published.

The deputy prime minister did not divulge the operational details or say which countries.

‘Kosovo Operation Big Accomplishment’

In March, five teachers and a doctor, all Turkish nationals perceived to be Gulenists, were flown back to Turkey from Kosovo in a covert 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.

But Bozdag trumpeted the Kosovo operation, full details of which have yet to be disclosed, as an example of MIT’s success.

“MIT has dealt a big blow to FETO through operations carried out abroad,” Bozdag said.

“The operation in Kosovo is a big accomplishment,” he added.

Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj sacked his top security chiefs over their involvement in the operation, drawing an angry rebuke from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Hey Kosovo prime minister, who told you to do this? Since when did you start to protect those who tried to launch a coup in Turkey?” he said.

Anadolu has described the six men expelled from Kosovo as senior individuals in the Gulen movement, reporting that they were organizing the international travel of its members.

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Staff Writer

AFP with Staff Writer

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