More military and media purges as Erdogan set to meet commanders

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Wednesday with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and military chief of staff Hulusi Akar ahead of a key session with the nation's armed forces commanders, broadcaster NTV reported, as more purges of the military and media were announced.

The Supreme Military Council - the highest body responsible for appointments and removals within the armed forces - is due to meet Thursday morning for the first time since the failed July 15 coup attempt.

The meeting was moved up from its normally scheduled time in August and will also be shortened to just one day, from the normal three.

Hours before the meeting, the government announced the discharge of 1,600 officers, including 149 generals. The Turkish armed forces have about 350 generals and admirals.

Since the failed coup, 151 generals have been arrested - well over a third of all commanders at this rank - along with 1,600 other officers, according to Interior Minister Efkan Ala. In all, some 5,200 soldiers have been arrested.

Akin Ozturk, a former air force chief, is accused of being a ringleader of the putsch attempt that cost some 260 lives. His seat on the 16-member council will likely be left empty, a government official said.

The Turkish Armed Forces said 8,651 members of the military, or about 1.5 per cent of the force, took part in the putsch attempt, noting that this shows the "overwhelming majority" of soldiers opposed the overthrow.

The coup plotters used 35 aircraft, including 24 war planes and 37 helicopters, including eight gunships, during the course of the action, according to a statement from the army carried by local news agencies. They also had 74 tanks and three ships.

Interior minister Ala told broadcaster A Haber that Turkey had arrested 8,113 people, out of 15,846 detained since July 15. A government official later said some 3,000 people who were detained have been released.

Meanwhile, the crackdown also widened against those in civilian circles who allegedly took part in the coup attempt or might have information.

The government ordered scores of media organizations to be shut down, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. They include three news agencies, 16 television channels, 23 radio stations and 45 newspapers, including both national and local newspapers.

A prosecutor issued a detention order for 47 former employees of Zaman, the country's largest newspaper until it was taken over by the state in March.

The detention order comes on top of warrants issued Monday for 42 journalists, 16 of whom have been brought in for questioning, according to the Dogan news agency.

Zaman was once seen as a flagship newspaper of the movement of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish-born Islamic preacher based in Pennsylvania since 1999. Gulen was a long-time ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but the two fell out publicly in recent years.

Zaman was once largely supportive of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), but shifted along with the ties of the leaders. The new trustee management has imposed a pro-government line.

The Turkish government accused Gulen of being behind the failed coup, which the preacher denies. The US said it would weigh an extradition request on its merits.

The country is currently under a 90-day state of emergency. Erdogan has pledged to "cleanse" state institutions from Gulenists.

Since the coup attempt, Turkey has removed tens of thousands of employees from the civil service, allegedly over links to Gulen, and detained more than 13,000 people, of whom about 9,000 were formally arrested.

The European Federation of Journalists, just prior to the failed putsch, announced that 34 journalists had been locked up in Turkey.

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