REUTERS — Two Turkish military attaches in Greece have gone missing after being called back to Ankara as part of investigations into last month's failed military coup, a senior Turkish official told Reuters on Thursday.
- Turkish military officer based in the U.S. seeking asylum following failed coup
- Tens of thousands detained, removed or suspended by Turkish authorities since coup
- Turkey's purge of political opponents will come back to haunt it
Turkey, which has NATO's second-largest armed forces, has discharged thousands of soldiers including some 40 percent of generals since the coup bid, in which rogue troops commandeered jets, helicopters and tanks in an attempt to seize power.
"We know the two military attaches in Greece tried to go abroad. The intelligence we received suggests they may have gone to Italy ... If this is confirmed, we will let the Italian authorities know," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The official also said Turkey's military attache in Bosnia was missing, but the embassy there denied this and said he had not been recalled.
A total of 160 members of the military wanted in connection with the July 15 failed coup are still at large, including nine generals, officials have said.
Turkey accuses U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen of staging the attempted putsch, harnessing his extensive network of schools, charities and businesses built up in Turkey and abroad over decades to create a "parallel structure" in state institutions.
It has suspended, detained or placed under investigation more than 60,000 soldiers, police, civil servants, teachers, bureaucrats and others since July 15 on suspicion of links to Gulen's network. The cleric denies any involvement.
A second official, who confirmed the disappearance of the two attaches in Greece, said the foreign ministry had sent instructions to Turkish diplomatic missions around the world where suspected Gulenists were thought to be working, ordering them back to Ankara as part of the investigations.
Turkey's foreign minister has said around 300 members of the foreign ministry have been suspended since the coup plot, including two ambassadors.
U.S. officials told Reuters this week that a Turkish military officer on a U.S.-based assignment for NATO is seeking asylum in the United States after being recalled by the government. It was the first known asylum bid involving a Turkish officer in the United States as Turkey purges its military ranks.