Turkey orders new arrests of top police in eavesdropping probe

Turkey orders new arrests of top police in eavesdropping probe

ANKARA - Turkey on Tuesday launched a new operation to arrest top police officers suspected of involvement in illegal eavesdropping on senior officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The operation targeted 18 senior police figures in Ankara including the former head of national police intelligence, Omer Altiparmak, and the former deputy head of the Ankara police Lokman Kircili, the official Anatolia news agency reported.

The swoops were the fifth such in a sequence of coordinated raids against police since July that have already seen the arrest of dozens of former senior officers.

As in almost all the previous raids, the details of those targeted were leaked overnight, before the raids were launched, by a mysterious Twitter user named Fuat Avni whose identity remains unknown.

The government had repeatedly moved to shut down Fuat Avni's Twitter account but the user simply moves to another address.

It was not immediately clear if all those targeted by the current raids had been arrested but Turkish media said that the operation was ongoing.

The operation is aimed at cracking down on what Erdogan has described as a "parallel state" within the security forces loyal to his former ally turned foe, the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The probe is linked to last year's stunning corruption allegations against Erdogan and his inner circle - vehemently denied by the president - that were based on wiretapped telephone conversations.

Those arrested have been accused of forming a criminal organisation and wire-tapping hundreds of people including Erdogan in a bid to find evidence against him.

Turkish prosecutors on Friday dropped a case against more than 50 people, including sons of two former ministers, who had been accused in a corruption probe based on the allegations.

The Erdogan-led authorities have retaliated by sacking hundreds of police and prosecutors believed to be linked to Gulen and introducing curbs on the judiciary and the Internet.

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