Turkish authorities say they have arrested more than 1,000 people and suspended 9,100 policemen in an accelerated crackdown on alleged supporters of cleric Fethullah Gulen.
The government blames the exiled cleric for orchestrating last year’s failed military coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Officials said Wednesday 1,009 “secret imams” who infiltrated the police and other state-run agencies were arrested. More than 9,100 police personnel suspected of being Gulen backers were suspended.
“In Turkey, there was an attempted coup with a goal of toppling the government and destroying the state,” Erdogan told the Reuters News Agency. “We are trying to cleanse members of FETO inside the armed forces, inside the judiciary, and inside the police,” he said using the government’s acronym for the Gulen group.
Turkey has arrested or fired more than 160,000 alleged coup organizers and participants since last July.
Gulen, who lives in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, denies playing any part in the coup. The State Department has balked at Turkey’s demand for his extradition, citing a lack of concrete evidence.
The latest arrests come a little more than a week after Turkish voters narrowly approved a referendum to expand Erdogan’s presidential powers and weaken parliament — a move the opposition says could destroy Turkish democracy and secular traditions.
Supporters say it will bring stability to Turkey after years of political uncertainty that came with power-sharing coalition governments.