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Turkey arrests 150 soldiers in latest crackdown on coup network

Move comes day after 80 air force staff arrested, all charged with supporting the Fethullah Gulen network
A police helicopter flies over an officer guarding a court hearing for coup suspects in February 2017 (AFP)

Turkish police arrested 150 soldiers over alleged links to a US-based preacher Ankara says orchestrated an attempted coup in 2016, state-run Anadolu news agency.

The agency said on Friday that those arrested were among 300 military personnel, including 211 serving officers, facing investigation by Istanbul prosecutors.

Authorities have carried out such sweeps against alleged supporters of the cleric Fethullah Gulen on a regular basis since the failed coup of July 2016, in which 250 people were killed. Gulen denies involvement.

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In similar investigations on Thursday, police arrested more than 80 serving air force staff, according to state media.

Turkish authorities said last month they had identified 3,000 people within the armed forces linked to Gulen.

Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli was quoted by broadcaster NTV as saying the suspects would be dismissed from their posts through an emergency decree presented to the prime ministry.

"We discovered a structure of 3,000 people in the [army]," he said.

The Turkish parliament also extended by three months the post-coup state of emergency, despite mounting calls from Ankara's allies to lift it.

It was the seventh time the state of emergency has been extended.

Turkey has arrested 160,000 people and dismissed nearly the same number of civil servants since the putsch attempt, the UN human rights office said in March.

Of that number, more than 50,000 have been formally charged and kept in jail during their trials.

Turkey's Western allies have criticised the crackdown.

Turkey says the measures are necessary to combat threats to national security.

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