Turkish security forces have arrested the head of the Incirlik air base in the south of the country over allegations that he was involved in the attempted military coup against the government on the night of July 15.
A Turkish Government official confirmed the arrest of General Bekir Ercan Van on Sunday. He is among 6,000 people arrested across the country after a coup attempt that started on Friday evening was foiled on Saturday morning. Some 10 other soldiers and one police officer based in Incirlik were also detained.
One of the planes hijacked by the coup plotters reportedly refuelled at the air base during the attempt.
Second army commander Adem Huduti, third army commander Erdal Ozturk, former Chief of Air Staff Akin Ozturk, and Denizli garrison commander Ozhan Ozbakir were also arrested.
According to Turkey's Anadolu Agency, Colonel Ali Yazici, an aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was likewise detained.
The army had blocked access to the strategic air base, which is being used by the US air force in its operations in Iraq and Syria, following the coup attempt, but the base has since been reopened.
"After close coordination with our Turkish allies, they have reopened their airspace to military aircraft," a Pentagon statement said, confirming the resumption of air operations against the DAESH terrorist group from the base.
Erdogan vows to clean up ‘virus’
President Erdogan has been leading a purge on the country’s judiciary and military since Saturday, with officials and officers believed to be linked to what the Turkish Government calls a "parallel state" being rounded up.
Arrest warrants have been issued for 2,745 judges and prosecutors across the country, with one of Turkey’s most senior judges Alparslan Altan also being taken into custody.
"We will continue to clean the virus from all state bodies because this virus has spread. Unfortunately like a cancer, this virus has enveloped the state," Erdogan told supporters at a funeral for those who were killed during the incident.
The government has accused US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, of being responsible.
Gulen is accused of leading an underground movement which has infiltrated key government institutions in a bid to undermine Turkey’s democracy.
He was previously implicated in a wiretapping scandal which leaked secret communications between government officials to the internet, purportedly revealing instances of corruption among ministers and bureaucrats loyal to Erdogan.
A onetime ally of Erdogan himself, Gulen has denied being behind alleged plots to overthrow the government.
Erdogan has repeatedly requested Gulen’s extradition from the US, and has intesified these calls after this weekend’s attempted coup.
In reply, US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged Turkey to compile evidence so the US can evaluate whether to extradite Gulen.
"We would invite the government of Turkey, as we always do, to present us with any legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny," Kerry told reporters.
Kerry also called on Turkey to desist from publicly implying that the US was behind the latest coup attempt.
"Public insinuations or claims about any role by the United States in the failed coup attempt are utterly false and harmful to our bilateral relations," Kerry said, according to the US State Department.