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Officer who accompanied army chief on Kardak visit detained over Gülen ties

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A military officer who was likely to become Turkey’s first female general has been detained due to alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement following her return from a visit to the Kardak islets with Turkey’s Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar on Sunday.

Air Force Staff Lt. Col. Bilgehan Bülbül was one of the officers accompanying Akar during a visitto the Kardak islets along with the commanders of the land, naval and air forces.

The Kardak islets, also known as Imia, lie just seven kilometers off the Turkish coast. Greece and Turkey, both members of NATO, have long disputed their sovereignty and in 1996 came close to war over the islets.

Bülbül was detained on Monday based on testimony from individuals who are under investigation due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement. Bülbül’s husband, Air Force Staff Lt. Col. Nail Bülbül, was also detained as part of the same investigation but later released due to a lack of sufficient evidence.
It has also emerged that Nail Bülbül was one of the commanders who coordinated Turkish F-16 warplanes that took off from a military air base in the Central Anatolian province of Eskişehir and hit Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in al-Bab, northern Syria, as a part of the Turkish-backed Operation Euphrates Shield.

Turkey experienced a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

More than 135,000 people have been purged from state bodies and 43,000 arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees include journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and even a comedian.

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