Ankara - Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was planning to purge the country’s armed forces of suspected dissenters to his government before the failed military-led coup in July 2016, new European intel says.

A secret report written by Intcen - the EU’s intelligence agency - found that the hastily organised attempt to overthrow Erdogan last year was motivated by the fact that military generals feared they were going to be subject to an imminent crackdown on the opposition, Independent reported the other day.

“The decision to launch the coup resulted from the fears of an incoming purge,” the August 2016 report, seen by The Times, read. “The coup was just a catalyst for the crackdown prepared in advance.”

Rumours of an expected purge joined army followers of the exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen, secularists, and those opposed to Erdogan’s policies against the Kurds together, providing the momentum for the dramatic failed July 15 takeover.

European intelligence officials also found that the Turkish government’s claim that Fethullah Gulen - whom the country is trying to extradite from the US - was behind the plot were unsubstantiated.

“It is unlikely Gulen really had the abilities and capacities to take such steps... The Gülen movement is very disconnected and somewhat distant from the secular opposition and Turkish army,” the report said.

Erdogan has cracked down on Mr Gulen’s followers since he became president in 2014, as well as civil rights activists, academics and journalists.

Following the July coup attempt, the government declared a state of emergency, during which thousands more deemed hostile to Erdogan’s ruling AK party have been jailed or fired from state sector jobs.

Turkey is set to hold a spring referendum on legislative reform which would give Erdogan control of the executive branch of government and possibly remain in office until 2029.

 

Monitoring Desk