Reports Turkish troops have sealed off Incirlik US/NATO nuclear air base
TURKEY has sent police to surround the Incirlik air base it operates with the United States — and where a large stockpile of NATO nuclear weapons is held — ahead of a visit by a senior US official tomorrow.
Unconfirmed reports out of Turkey suggest all entrances to the air base have been blocked by heavy vehicles and police sent to secure its peremiter.
The unusual nigh-time move sparked rumours of a second coup attempt on Turkish social media, with concerned citizens rushing to the air base to join the blockade.
The move comes less than a week after a top US Army general was accused by Turkish media of ‘leading’ the uprising
against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this month.
But Turkish Minister for European Affairs has since reportedly sought to reassure local media, stating the mission was just a “safety inspection”.
Regional Governor Ahmet Cina has told Turkish news services
: “Everthing is normal and controlled. There is no movement of our troops.”
US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford is due to fly in for an inspection of the air base later today. He is also expected to hold talks with the Turkish government in Ankara.
Last week, General Dunford labelled Turkish claims that a retired US general was behind the coup as “absurd”.
This file picture, released by the US Air Force, shows a US F-16 taking off from the Inirlik base. Picture: AFPSource:AFP
The NATO air base and nuclear weapons store at Incirlik, Turkey. Picture: Google MapsSource:Supplied
The Middle Eastern Hurriyet news service
reported Turkish authorities had responded to “intelligence reports” by ordering the move about 11pm Turkish time.
It states ‘riot police’ and armed vehicles have ‘taken precautions’ around the base.
The air base has been a central facility in US and NATO efforts against Islamic State. It also houses a stockpile of nuclear weapons as part of NATO’s deterrence force.
Several of the aircraft used by coup forces during the failed uprising flew out of the Incirlik air base, which then had its power supply cut off for several weeks.
ARMED FORCES ‘REINED-IN’
Reuters reports Turkey will shut down its military academies and put the armed forces under the command of the defence minister, President Tayyip Erdogan said in a move designed to bring the military under tighter government control after a failed coup.
The changes come after more than 1700 military personnel were dishonourably discharged for their role in the abortive July 15-16 putsch. Erdogan, who narrowly escaped capture and possible death on the night of the coup, told Reuters in an interview last week that the military, NATO’s second-biggest, needed “fresh blood”.
The dishonourable discharges included around 40 per cent of Turkey’s admirals and generals.
Turkey accuses US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the putsch, in which a faction of the military commandeered tanks, helicopters and fighter jets and attempted to topple the government. Erdogan has said 237 people were killed and more than 2100 wounded.
Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States for years, denies the charge and has condemned the coup.
So far, more than 60,000 people in the military, judiciary, civil service and schools have been either detained, removed or suspended over suspected links with Gulen.
Turkey’s Western allies condemned the attempted putsch, but have been rattled by the scale of the resulting crackdown.
Both the general staff and the intelligence agency now report to the prime minister’s office. Putting them under the president’s overall direction would be in line with Erdogan’s push for a new constitution centred on a strong executive presidency.
Erdogan also said that a total of 10,137 people have been formally arrested following the coup.
1,000s Turkish forces surround NATO’s Incirlik air base for ‘inspection’ amid rumors of coup attempt
Some 7,000 armed police with heavy vehicles have surrounded and blocked the Incirlik air base in Adana used by NATO forces, already restricted in the aftermath of a failed coup. Unconfirmed reports say troops were sent to deal with a new coup attempt.
READ MORE: Anti-US rally staged at NATO Incirlik air base in Turkey (VIDEO, PHOTOS)
Hurriyet reported earlier that Adana police had been tipped off about a new coup attempt, and forces were immediately alerted. The entrance to the base was closed off.
Security forces armed with rifles and armored TOMA vehicles used by Turkish riot police could be seen at the site in photos taken by witnesses.
Turkey’s minister for EU Affairs downplayed the situation in a Twitter post, saying a “security inspection”
was carried out.
“We did the general security check. There is nothing wrong,”
he tweeted from Adana.
Some supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have reportedly flocked to the cordon surrounding the base. The scene, however, did not appear as massive and tense as the recent Adana protests demanding for the base to be shut down.
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