Turkish police have detained 23 noncommissioned officers as part of a Kocaeli-run investigation into the faith-based Gülen movement, CNN Türk reported on Monday.
According to the report the Kocaeli Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 32 active duty noncommissioned officers on Dec. 20. Police have so far detained 23 of them in operations spanning several provinces, while nine are still at large.
Thousands of military members have been purged and detained as part of a witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement since a coup attempt in July 2016.
The Gülen movement is accused by the Turkish government of mounting the coup attempt, but the movement strongly denies any involvement.
One hundred thirty generals and admirals in the Turkish military were either dismissed or suspended as part of the widespread purge following the failed coup.
The government has been at the center of criticism for turning Turkish forces into a political Islamist military in line with the wishes of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
In February Defense Minister Fikri Işık said 30,000 new recruits would be enlisted in the Turkish military.
A month later Işık declared that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had dismissed a total of 22,920 military personnel (6,511 officers and 16,409 cadets) after the coup attempt although the Turkish military stated on July 27 that only 8,651 military members including cadets and conscripts took part in the failed coup.
The Cumhuriyet daily reported in March that the government planned to investigate 90,000 more military personnel over links to the Gülen movement.
“If it was a coup perpetrated by the Gülen movement and 22,920 military personnel were dismissed for their connections to the movement as Erdoğan and the government assert, why did only 8,651 military members participate in the coup?” is a question being asked by critics.
Some find the Turkish government’s efforts to Islamicize the Turkish army alarming and warn that NATO risks having a member army filled with extremists.
In February Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center, said that many generals purged by the Turkish government are pro-NATO and pro-American, saying this could create a shift in Turkey-NATO relations.