Turkey arrests 55 more pilots in post-coup investigations: NTV

November 9, 2016 3:38 AM EST

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ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish prosecutors ordered the detention of 55 more air force pilots on Wednesday, broadcaster NTV and other media reported, as part of an ongoing crackdown following a failed coup in July.

Authorities previously detained more than 300 pilots, most of them at an air base in Konya, as part of the unprecedented crackdown in which more than 110,000 people - from soldiers and judges to teachers and journalists - have been detained or suspended, and 37,000 formally arrested.

The latest operation targeting supporters of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for orchestrating the putsch, was carried out in eight provinces but centered in Konya, NTV said.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, has denied the charges and condemned the coup.

The extent of the purges has worried rights groups and some of Turkey's Western allies, who fear that President Tayyip Erdogan is using the failed coup as a pretext to curtain dissent. The government says the actions are justified by the gravity of the threat to the state from July 15, when rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and fighters jets, killing more than 240 people.

The government has said it was working on projects to cover the shortage in air force pilots since the attempted coup, and will seek to draw back pilots from civil aviation.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by David Dolan and Hugh Lawson)



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