Turkey’s embattled prime minister has ratcheted up his rhetoric against a US-based Muslim cleric seen as a threat to his government.
For the first time, Recep Tayyip Erdogan directly suggested followers of Pennsylvania-based spiritual leader Fethullah Gulen have infiltrated the police and judiciary and are pushing a corruption probe against his allies.
Analysts pointed to growing evidence of an uneasy alliance between Mr Erdogan’s Islam-based government and the secular military, which for years regarded him with suspicion.
The scandal is revealing the deep cracks among Turkey’s elite and power struggles that have until now mostly remained hidden.
Turks are watching with disbelief two major Islamic groups attacking each other.
Mr Erdogan has frequently pointed to outside forces as trying to destabilise the country but he has broadened his claims in the latest crisis to include domestic foes working as “pawns”.
Many believe the probe was orchestrated by followers of Mr Gulen, a moderate preacher whose network of Muslim believers commands a global empire of business, media and education interests.
The power feud has seen Mr Gulen pray that “God bring fire to their houses,” and Mr Erdogan respond with a promise to “go into their caves” and “expose them”. Neither side has named the other directly, but has left no doubt as to the target of their words.
Mr Erdogan yesterday suggested the movement’s followers had infiltrated the police and the judiciary.
“There is a serious smear campaign and there is an organisation, a gang that has established itself within the state,” he said. “There are judicial officials who are... smearing innocent people. They are within the police too.”
His political adviser Yalcin Akdogan suggested in a column in a pro-government newspaper this week that the Gulen movement had “framed” hundreds of military officers who were convicted last year of plotting to bring down the government.