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Friday, June 3, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Top Turkish Air Force general accused of plotting overthrow of Islamist government

ANKARA — The Turkish Air Force has been struck by a government crackdown on suspected opponents.


An Istanbul court has ordered the arrest of the officer expected to become the next commander of the Air Force. Gen. Bilgin Balanli was taken into detention on May 30 and accused of plotting to overthrow the Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, Middle East Newsline reported.

"The arrest strikes at the heart of the military and endangers leadership plans in the Air Force," a military source said.

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Under Erdogan, more than 200 military and security officers have been arrested in the alleged plot to overthrow the government. Secular critics said the arrests marked a crackdown by the ruling Justice and Development Party against the powerful military.

Balanli has been commander of the War Academy and represented the highest-ranking officer detained in the alleged coup. The only active general under arrest, Balanli had been preparing to take over the Air Force in annual promotions scheduled to take place in August.

Over the last year, Erdogan has blocked several appointments of senior officers accused of having participated in the alleged coup. Balanli was said to have been the leading candidate to replace Air Force commander Gen. Hassan Aksay.

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