London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Around 350 police officers have been removed from their posts in the Turkish capital of Ankara, Turkey’s state-run Andalou news agency reported on Tuesday.
According to the private Dogan news agency, the dismissed officers have been reassigned to traffic departments or police stations on the outskirts of Ankara.
The news comes as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continues to battle an investigation into alleged corruption by public officials, seen as the most serious challenge to his rule since assuming office in 2003.
Erdoğan has claimed he is the target of a conspiracy, and has dismissed hundreds of police chiefs and officers since police launched the probe targeting prominent Erdoğan aides on December 17.
Erdoğan’s backers claim Fethullah Gülen, a US-based Turkish cleric with strong influence in the police and judiciary and a former ally of the prime minister, and his followers are behind the allegations of corruption.
Gülen denies the allegation.
A Turkish source who wished to remain anonymous told Asharq Al-Awsat that Erdoğan is preparing for a “decisive battle” with Gülen, and has been in “marathon talks” with aides and members of the military leadership on what his next steps will be.
“Erdogan wants a decisive outcome to this problem,” said the source. “Either he removes Gülen’s followers from their positions, or he leaves his.”
Erdoğan’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) is widely believed to have relied on Gülen’s influence in breaking the power of the army—which carried out three coups between 1960 and 1980 and forced an Islamist-led government from power in 1997—by pursuing suspected coup plotters through the courts.
Thair Abbas contributed reporting.