Turkey arrests 1000 'secret imams' in police purge

Turkish authorities on Wednesday detained more than 1,000 people suspected of backing a Turkish cleric blamed by the government for a failed military coup last summer.

Detention orders had been issued for 1,000 people, of which 803 had been detained, security sources said, in operations carried out across all 81 of Turkey's provinces.

Some 8,500 police officers participated in the operation, Anadolu said.

Police officers escort people, arrested because of suspected links to Pa. -based cleric Fethullah Gulen, in Kayseri, Turkey, Wednesday, April 26, 2017.

The authorities said another 2,200 people were being sought in relation to the investigation into a movement loyal to US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said it was an "important step" toward the government's aim at "bringing down" the Gulen movement. The suspects are so-called "secret imams" of Gulen suspected of infiltrating themselves into the police or other state institutions, it reported.

The latest raids targeted "secret imams" suspected of being part of a Gulen network that infiltrated the police force.

This week's purges also come shortly after Erdogan narrowly won a countrywide referendum that significantly consolidated his power, shifting Turkey from a parliamentary political system to one centered on a strong president.

Turkey issued detention orders for around 3,224 people on Tuesday over their alleged links to a failed coup attempted in July previous year.

Gulen has denied orchestrating the coup attempt.

The failed coup took place in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Sebastian Fischer told reporters in Berlin that Germany believes the failed coup needs to be fully investigated "but the measures must adhere to the rule of law".

The government has repeatedly asked the United States to extradite Gulen, who has been living in exile there since 1999.

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