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Turkey orders arrest of 249 foreign ministry personnel over Gulen links

Scores already picked up by authorities in latest wave of arrests following 2016 coup attempt
Once an ally of Erdogan, Gulen faces accusations of driving a long-term campaign to threaten the president's rule (AFP)

Turkish prosecutors on Monday ordered the arrest of 249 current and former foreign ministry personnel over alleged ties to a US-based cleric accused of orchestrating the foiled 2016 coup. 

At least 91 of those have been arrested, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The arrests are the latest in a sweeping crackdown by the Turkish authorities, in which tens of thousands have been incarcerated following the coup attempt. 

Authorities have targeted individuals linked to the movement of Fetullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and stands accused of being behind the 2016 attempted putsch.

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The clampdown has triggered concern among rights groups, who accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of using the failed coup to quash dissent. Meanwhile, the government says the scale of threats it faces necessitates such security measures.

The prosecutor's office said the 249 issued with arrest warrents are suspected of manipulating the foreign ministry's entrance examinations to favour followers of the Gulen movement.

According to Anadolu, arrest operations have taken place in 42 provinces across the country. 

Ankara accuses what it calls the Gulen movement of waging a long-running campaign to dismantle the state through infiltrating Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

However, Gulen's supporters deny such a movement exists, saying he runs a peaceful organisation called Hizmet (Service). Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who has lived in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999, has denied orchestrating the 15 July 2016 coup plot that saw more than 250 people killed.

Ankara's demand that the US extradites Gulen, and Washington's refusal to do so, has been a source of tension between the Nato allies. 

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