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Pentagon denounces Turk paper's claim that retired Army general plotted coup

The Pentagon's top general dismissed as "absurd" a Turkish media report that a retired U.S. Army four-star general orchestrated this month's failed coup attempt against Turkey's President Recep Erdogan.

An article posted on Monday in the English language version of Turkey's daily Yeni Safak newspaper reiterated its print story accusing retired General John Campbell of being chief mastermind and financier of the attempted coup.

Campbell previously commanded NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, and retired from the Army this year.

Citing sources close to the "ongoing legal process of pro-coup detainees," the Turkish newspaper wrote that Campbell "was one of the top figures who organized and managed the soldiers behind the failed coup attempt in Turkey."

The newspaper, whose name translates into English as "New Dawn," is known for its support of Erdogan. The English language story about Campbell contained his photograph, and asserted that he used CIA connections to funnel money to coup participants via a Nigerian bank.  The newspaper also claimed that Campbell secretly had visited Turkey twice in days leading up to the coup attempt.

U.S. Defense officials vigorously denounced the charges.

"That's an absurd report that General Campbell would be involved with something like that," said the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, at a Monday meeting with reporters at the Pentagon. "He's a personal friend and I happen to know that, right now, he's doing a lot of things and one of them is not planning a coup inside of Turkey."

Additionally, sources close to Campbell told AMI that the former four-star has not visited Turkey as reported by Yeni Safak.

The newspaper was founded two decades ago, when it published columns from politically diverse writers. Over the years, after being bought by an organization that reportedly was tied to  Erdogan when he was mayor Istanbul, the paper increasingly was viewed as being aligned with the Turkish president.

In recent years, the paper was embroiled with various controversies centered on anti-Semitism, disinformation, and other issues.

In 2013, American writer Noam Chomsky accused the paper of having fabricated portions of an interview with him. The paper eventually apologized to Chomsky, and removed the interview from its website.

The paper's recent claims about Campbell contain details rich in conspiracy. 

Central to the coup, the paper claims, was a six-month series of bank transactions via the Nigerian branch of the United Bank of Africa. "The money, which has been distributed to an 80-person special team of the CIA, was used to convince pro-coup generals," the paper reported. "More than 2 billion dollars were distributed during the process leading to the coup."

The 80-person CIA team acted as go-betweens connecting plotters with participants, the article says. "After taking money from their bank accounts, the CIA team hand delivered it to the terrorists under the military dresses."

The unsourced story contains additional details that have left U.S. defense officials puzzled. 

Said Dunford: "I really don't know where that report could have come from."