Turkey pulls tanks from bases in major cities, following failed coup
The move follows an announcement earlier this month that Turkey would shutter all military facilities used by participants in the July 15 attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The coup attempt was the work of elements within the Turkish Army who are connected to Fethullah Gulen, a 75-year-old Turkish imam living in Pennsylvania, a Turkish diplomat told AMI Newswire. Gulen has condemned the coup, and has denied being involved.
Gulen leads the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization (FETO), the Turkish government claims.
The failed putsch against Erdogan was "perpetrated by a fraction [sic] within the Turkish Army tied to Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization (FETO)," said Ferhat Alkan, Consul General of the Republic of Turkey in Houston, Texas, in an email to AMI Newswire.
Coup participants launched some of their operations from military facilities in Ankara and Istanbul, the Turkish government has charged. Hence, the move to close those facilities.
The move from Bastabya Barracks in Istanbul was documented by the government news agency, Anadolu.
Photos from Anadolu depicted large flatbed trucks, draped in the national flag of Turkey and painted military olive green, carrying tracked vehicles shrouded by tarpaulins. The vehicles belong to the 3rd Army Command 66th Mechanized Armoured Infantry Brigade Command, photo captions read.
Although the vehicles are not identified, at least one image appears to have the shape of an M113-series armored personnel carrier. The U.S.-designed vehicle is known to be part of the Turkish Army inventory.
The vehicles are depicted being transported in convoys and with tarpaulins billowing atop public roads amid civilian traffic.
The convoys took place during a visit to Turkey by the head of U.S. European Command. The EUCOM commander, General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, met today with Gen. Hulusi Akar, the Turkish military’s chief of staff. Akar was reportedly captured briefly during the attempted coup.
In an emailed statement to reporters, Scaparrotti did not address the base closings, but emphasized NATO and the United States' commitment to Turkey.
"The Alliance stands shoulder to shoulder with Turkey and is committed to partnering with them to promote security throughout the region," Scaparotti said. "Turkey is fundamental to security on our southern flank. It sits at the crossroads of the many challenges we face in Europe, from the refugee crisis, to terrorism, to human trafficking. We are thankful for their leadership and contributions in each of these areas, and for access they have granted us to their bases, which are critical to our operations."
Also on Monday, the Erdogan government announced that it had suspended 95 police officers, including police chiefs, in Istanbul.
Both the base closings and police suspensions come in the immediate wake of an attack on a private wedding this weekend in Turkey, where at least 54 people — a large number of them children — were reported killed by a suicide bomber.
Turkish diplomats did not respond to queries from AMI Newswire as to whether the base closings and police firings would have an impact on the embattled nation's efforts to combat terrorism.
The base closings are expected to be completed by Sept. 11.