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Commander of crucial air base arrested as calls for executions grow in Turkey

Incirlik air base, one of the most important in the region, houses tactical nuclear weapons and functions as an anti-IS headquarters
A Turkish army armed vehicle drives in Istanbul on 16 July 2016 (AFP)
By
Karim El-Bar

General Bekir Ercan Van, commander of the Incirlik air base, one of the most important in the entire region, has been arrested for complicity in Friday’s coup, a Turkish official told Middle East Eye.

Incirlik base houses tactical nuclear weapons and is currently used by the United States as an operations headquarters in its war against the Islamic State (IS) group.

The Turkish official, who did not want to be named, added that 10 other soldiers and police were also arrested at the air base.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s military aide, Colonel Ali Yazici, has also had an arrest warrant issued against him by a Turkish judge for his involvement in Friday's attempted coup, according to Turkish daily Cumhuriyet.

Meanwhile, at Istanbul’s Fatih Mosque, Erodgan spoke at the funeral of the brother of one of his advisers.

“We are not after revenge,” he told the crowd who turned out to watch him speak. “If they have guns and tanks, we have faith. So let us think before each step we take. We will act with reason and experience.”

He doubled down on his claim that US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen was behind the attempted coup, telling the crowd: “The coup instigators are representatives of Gulen's terrorist organisation.”

Responding to chants from the crowd saying "We want executions!" Erdogan responded: "I said it yesterday as well, the peoples' demands cannot be ignored in democracies. This is your right. This right will be evaluated by the relevant authorities, especially from a constitutional perspective, and a decision will be taken."

The deputy leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Mehmet Muezzinoglu, said on Saturday that the government will introduce a bill calling for the execution of rebel soldiers.

“We will put forward a motion, which will demand the execution of those who have been involved in the coup attempt," Muezzinoglu said on Twitter.

On Saturday, the hashtag #Idamistiyorum [I want death penalty] was the top trend on Twitter in Turkey.

"Now the clean-up operations are continuing. We have around 6,000 people detained. The number will increase above 6,000," the Turkish prime minister, Binali Yildirim, was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency earlier in the day.

The crackdown has included at least 3,000 soldiers being arrested and 2,700 judges sacked.

At least 265 people were killed in clashes as the coup failed, just over a 100 of them coup plotters, the government has said. At least 1,400 people have been injured so far.

In related developments, Egypt blocked a UN Security Council statement condemning the coup, Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to meet in the first week of August, and the US has hit back angrily at claims by at least one Turkish government minister that America was involved in the coup.

Turkey is still seeking Gulen’s extradition as well as that of eight military officers who fled to Greece seeking political asylum after it was clear the coup was failing.