Turkish authorities detained overnight over 1,000 people suspected of links to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who is accused of orchestrating the failed July coup, the interior minister said on Wednesday.
A total of 1,009 suspects have so far been detained in raids in 72 provinces across the country, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.
In one of the largest operations in months against the group, the crackdown targeted alleged Gulen operatives who directed followers within the police force.
The operations were carried out across all 81 of Turkey’s provinces, security sources said.
Those detained would be taken to the capital Ankara, the sources added.
According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, some 8,500 police officers participated in the operations.
After the abortive coup in July, authorities arrested more than 47,000 people, including some 10,700 police officers and 7,400 military personnel, the interior ministry has said.
The authorities have also since then sacked or suspended 120,000 others from a wide range of professions including soldiers, police, teachers and public servants, over alleged links with terrorist groups.
The latest arrests come 10 days after a tightly contested referendum approved the expansion of President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers, according to preliminary results.
Erdogan argues that strengthening the presidency will avert instability associated with coalition governments, at a time when Turkey also faces security threats from extremists and Kurdish militants.
But his critics see him as a leader bent on eroding modern Turkey’s democracy and secular foundations.
Mass detentions immediately after the attempted coup were supported by many Turks, who agreed with Erdogan when he blamed Gulen for masterminding the putsch which killed 240 people, mostly civilians. But criticism mounted as the arrests widened.
Gulen denies the charges.
Also Wednesday, Turkish warplanes struck Kurdish targets in northern Iraq, killing six militants, the military said in a statement, as part of a widening campaign against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The statement said the air strikes targeted the Zap region, the Turkish name for a river which flows across the
Turkish-Iraqi border and is known as Zab in Iraq.