Turkish president warns Mozambique of alleged Gulen threat

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Yasin Bulbul, AFP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Yasin Bulbul, AFP)

Johannesburg - The group blamed for last year's botched coup attempt in Turkey could infiltrate state institutions in other parts of the world where it operates, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday during a visit to Mozambique.

Erdogan spoke on the second stop of an Africa tour in which he is promoting trade and asking governments to crack down on groups linked to Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric accused of organizing the failed military uprising.

Gulen, who lives in the United States, has denied allegations that he was involved in the coup attempt and says Erdogan, a former ally, has become increasingly authoritarian.

A network of schools inspired by Gulen operates around the world, often attracting the children of local elites.

Erdogan's government seeks the closure or takeover of schools and other institutions linked to Gulen's movement, which made global inroads over the years with a message of interfaith harmony that was once supported by the Turkish government.

"In the same way that they infiltrated into our military, our police, our state institutions, this organization which is present in certain places in Mozambique and which has spread to the four corners of the world, can do the same here as well," Erdogan said.

"I requested that they be aware of this," the Turkish president said of his Mozambican hosts. "It was a friendly, brotherly request."

The Turkish leader, who traveled to Mozambique from Tanzania, also asked Mozambican officials to open an embassy in Turkey and to allow a Turkish aid agency, TIKA, to operate in the southern African country.

Erdogan, who met Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, also plans to visit Madagascar before returning to Turkey on Wednesday.

Hasan Ucar, secretary-general of Ravinala, an institute in Madagascar that is inspired by Gulen, said he expects Erdogan to "negotiate" with the government to close Gulen-linked operations that Ucar described as having "good reputations for years."

Turkey opened an embassy in Madagascar in 2010, though Gulen's supporters had been operating in the country since 2002 and previously acted as informal envoys for Turkey, Ucar wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

He criticized Turkey's massive purge of alleged Gulen supporters and said people in Madagascar are awaiting the reaction to Erdogan's overtures from their president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina.


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