Gülen movement trying to reach Africa: President Erdoğan
ISTANBUL - Anadolu AgencyTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said late on Aug. 6 that the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), believed to be behind the bloody July 15 failed coup attempt, has broader ambitions, adding that it was trying to extend its reach to Africa.
“FETÖ not only seeks a takeover in Turkey, but also tries to reach towards African countries,” Erdoğan told Qatar-based Al Jazeera network, adding that the followers of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen have hundreds of schools and institutions in 170 countries.
“They are raising the children of top government leaders and public figures and they seek to take over those countries in due time,” the Turkish president also said.
A total of 239 people were killed and 2,200 were injured during the failed takeover which began on the night of July 15. Gülen is sought by an Istanbul court on charges related to the coup attempt.
Saying that the post-coup investigations, wherein thousands of people have been detained or arrested and tens of thousands of civil servants have been suspended, would be a long-term process, Erdoğan noted that ridding the country of FETÖ would take time.
“We will wipe them out. We will reestablish the state. We will cleanse our security forces,” he said.
Commenting on allegations that the post-coup environment “gave him free rein to do whatever he wants,” Erdoğan said: “I strongly reject these claims. I would not exercise any right not given to me by the Turkish people. I am not a despot or a dictator.”
During the interview, the president also touched on Ankara’s request to Washington for the extradition of Gülen to face charges, saying that when Joseph Dunford, the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who visited Turkey earlier this week, asked for evidence for accusations against Gülen, Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar responded: “I am the evidence.”
Akar, who was held hostage the night of the overthrow attempt, said in his first testimony that among the coup plotters who captured him, Brig. Gen. Hakan Evrim, commander of the Akinci 4th Main Jet Base, told Akar that “if you so wish, we can arrange for you to meet our intellectual leader, Fethullah Gülen.”
As for his visit to Russia to meet his counterpart Vladimir Putin on Aug. 9, Erdoğan stressed the trip’s importance, saying: “Us standing shoulder to shoulder is important for the region.”
Russia and Turkey are coming out of a tense period in bilateral ties following the downing of a Russian jet by Turkish military aircraft in November last year. The meeting scheduled for Aug. 9 will mark the first time the two leaders will meet face to face since then.