Turkey ‘shuts down Incirlik air base’ to stop US jets bombing ISIS after Erdogan blasts: ‘You’re no friend of Turkey’
A TURKISH airbase used by the USA to launch attacks on ISIS and store nukes is reportedly under lock-down in revenge for the nation harbouring last night’s “coup mastermind”.
The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on the US to extradite Fethullah Gulen, the man he has accused of masterminding Friday’s failed coup.
It comes after reports that Turkey had shut off access to Incirlik air base – stopping the US jets attacking Islamic State – as President Erdogan blames his a “mystic” living in exile in America for last night’s violent uprising.
The Turkish head of state believes his old enemy Fethullah Gulen masterminded the plot to overthrow him and has vowed any country that will “stand by” Gulen “won’t be a friend of Turkey and will be considered at war with Turkey”.
Appealing to US President Barack Obama on Turkish television, Mr Erdogan said: “Today, after this coup attempt, I’m once again calling on you to extradite this man in Pennsylvania to Turkey now.”
But Gulen has reportedly denied the accusations.
Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey, which stores US tactical nuclear weapons, has been closed by local military authorities in the wake of the attempted coup, according to the US consulate.
A message from the consulate in Adana said: “Local authorities are denying movements on to and off of Incirlik Air Base. The power there has also been cut.
“Please avoid the air base until normal operations have been restored.”
Turkey and the USA have had to work closely in a bid to wipe out Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Missions against the Islamic State have been halted as a result, but CNN reports Turkish authorities made an exception for one aircraft returning after already being deployed.
Fethullah Gulen is an exiled Islamic preacher who was once a friend and ally of President Erodgen, but the struggling head if state believes his friend-turned-foe’s followers were behind last night’s coup.
Gulen, 75, has lived for years as a recluse in a compound in Saylorsburg, in the Poconos in Pennsylvania, USA since the pair fell out over a massive corruption scandal in 2013 that cost the country a whopping $100billion.
From there he has led the US arm of his so-called Gulen movement named the Alliance For Shared Values, which describes itself as “an umbrella non-profit organisation serving as a voice for civic, culture and service organisations” across Turkey.
What’s been dubbed as the Gulen movement, or Hizmet, promotes a version of Islam that embraces science, education and interfaith dialogue. According to some reports, about 10 per cent of the Turkish population is estimated to support Hizmet.
With Erdogan’s AKP party increasingly moving towards a support of Islamic-based law a major political fault line divides Turkish society, with half the population supporting a secular nation and the other wanting an Islam-led society.
Gulen initially swung millions in support of his pal, who rose from mayor to prime minister before becoming president in 2014.
His unique brand of Islamic-informed governance has gained him millions of followers, and considerable power – but despite embracing secular values such as interfaith dialogue, science and education, he is still viewed with suspicion by Turkey’s establishment.
The preacher moved to the US in 1999 after the pair fell out over a campaign thought to have been led by Gulen’s supporters against Erdogan.
In late 2013 the power struggle between the two foes came to a head after judicial officials thought to be close to Gulen brought corruption charges that directly implicated some of Erdogan’s inner circle, including his son Bilal.
Since then Erdogan has stepped up his battle against his exiled rival, purging the military and police force of Gulen supporters, closing schools operated by the Gulen movement and shutting down media outlets and journalists sympathetic to Gulen’s ideas.
Turkish authorities and his opponents have accused the preacher of seeking to establish “a state within a state” in the middle eastern democracy.
International lawyer for the Turkish government Robert Amsterdam — who had a feature interview published on the front page of Sabah newspaper in Turkey about the danger posed by Gulen — said in a statement Friday evening that he and his firm “have attempted repeatedly to warn the US government of the threat posed” by Fethullah Gulen and his movement.
He said that according to Turkish intelligence sources, “there are signs that Gulen is working closely with certain members of military leadership against the elected civilian government”.
However it’s a charge Gulen has “categorically” denied.
A written statement printed in the New York Times read: “I condemn, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey.
“Goverment should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force.
“I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly.”