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Turkey suspends 9,000 police and arrests 'secret imams'

Government says it is breaking up network of cleric Fetullah Gulen, who it blames for the failed coup of July last year
Suspected supporters of the Gulen are escorted by police in Kayseri (Reuters)

Turkish authorities suspended more than 9,000 police force personnel and rounded up more than 1,000 "secret imams" in an ongoing purge of those with alleged links to the US-based cleric, Fetullah Gulen.

Police headquarters in Ankara announced the suspensions in a statement on its website late on Wednesday evening, citing links with Gulen's network.

Local media reports said 19 of the suspended police officers belonged to the close protection detail of the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey's interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, said the latest crackdown also targeted a Gulen network "that infiltrated our police force, called 'secret imams'.

"One thousand and nine secret imams have been detained so far in 72 provinces, and the operation is ongoing," he said in Ankara on Wednesday.

Turkey has arrested or suspended more than 120,000 state employees in the aftermath of a failed coup last July.

The government blames Gulen and his supporters, whom they term the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO), for the attempted takeover.

The purge has targeted professions including soldiers, police, teachers and public servants, over alleged links with terrorist groups. In total, 40,000 police personnel have been suspended.

Erdogan said on Tuesday his government was trying to "cleanse" Turkey of terrorists.

"In Turkey, there was an attempted coup with a goal of toppling the government and destroying the state," he told the Reuters news agency.

"We are trying to cleanse members of FETO inside the armed forces, inside the judiciary and inside the police."

The president compared the struggle against Gulen with the state's battle against Islamic State and Kurdish PKK militants, who are designated terrorist organisations by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

"We are going to keep up the fight in terms of democracy, fundamental rights and liberties, but at the same time we are going to keep up the fight against PKK, FETO and other terrorist organisations such as Daesh (Islamic State)," he said.

"We will continue down this path in a very committed fashion."