Erdogan criticizes US officials for "purge" comments

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday criticized the US intelligence chief and a top general for saying that Washington's key interlocutors in Turkey are now either purged or jailed following the failed coup attempt.

"Who are you?" Erdogan said, speaking at Turkey's security headquarters in Ankara, which was damaged during the bloody coup attempt. "You should know your place."

US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and General Joseph Votel, the chief of US Central Command, cautioned on Thursday that the jailings and the purges could affect the ongoing war against Islamic State.

"It's having an effect because it has affected all segments of the national security apparatus in Turkey," Clapper said at the Aspen Security Forum.

"Many of our interlocutors have been purged or arrested," Clapper said. "There's no question this is going to set back and make more difficult cooperation with the Turks."

Votel, who heads the US fight against Islamic State, spoke in a similar vein, noting that some of the Turks with him he had relationships are jailed.

"We are very dependent on Turkey for basing of our resources. I am concerned that it will impact the level of cooperation and collaboration that we have with Turkey, which has been excellent," Votel said.

The US uses Incirlik, a key airbase in southern Turkey, to launch airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. The Turkish commander of the base was arrested after the coup.

In his reaction, Erdogan accused US officials of "taking the side of the putschists."

Since the coup two weeks ago, more than 18,000 people in Turkey have been detained, some 10,000 of them from the military, according to Turkish government figures. More than 1,600 officers, including 150 generals, have been purged.

Of those detained, more than 9,600 have been formally arrested, while some 3,500 have been released.

Turkey was long criticized for failing to take a decisive role in the fight against Islamic State but eventually opened up Incirlik - a base built by the US in the 1950s and which reportedly contains nuclear weapons - to be used in the war against the extremist group.

Last update: Fri, 29/07/2016 - 19:04
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