Turkish police have arrested and deported at least 50 Nigerian students. The majority of the youths attended the Fathi University, founded by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey has blamed for a failed military coup in July.

The Istanbul university is among thousands of educational buildings Turkey has shut down following the failed coup.

The students told Nigeria's local media their passports were confiscated as soon as they landed at the Ataturk International Airport, in Turkey's capital Istanbul, at the weekend.

"When they enquired why they were clamped in a dirty room, the police said they are students of a terrorist organisation," a source close to one of those deported told This Day Live newspaper. "They offered to transfer them to government schools but on the condition that we will pay the same fees as private universities."

Following the incident, the Nigerian government said it would summon the Turkish ambassador to Nigeria, Hakan Cakil, and demand an explanation for the deportation of the students.

"We also rejected the condition imposed on the students that they should return to Nigeria and obtain a fresh visa in line with their admission to a new university. We insisted that they must be issued the new visa in Turkey there," said Sola Enikanolaiye, Permanent Secretary of Nigeria's ministry of foreign affairs.

The Turkish government has not yet commented on the incident.

The deportation came months after Cakil asked Nigeria to close 17 Islamic schools linked to the Gulen movement – an Islamic religious and social organisation known as Hizmet. The diplomat alleged the schools were being used to recruit terrorists.

In response to Cakil's claims, Nigerian senator Shehu Sani urged the federal government to investigate the allegations.

David Otto, CEO of global security provider TGS Intelligence Consultants, believes that the antagonism between the Turkish government and Himzet explains the allegations made by Cakil. However, he told IBTimes UK there was "no credible evidence that Hizmet is recruiting potential terrorists in its schools or other known establishments."

Gulen and Turkey relations

The Gulen movement has private schools and universities in more than 180 countries. It was originally on good terms with Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) party, as both groups advocate a moderate version of Islam.

However, AKP later labelled Himzet as a terrorist organisation and accused its members of trying to infiltrate the state to overthrow the government. Gulen has been leading Hizmet from the US, where he is in self-imposed exile.

The Turkish government alleged Gulen was behind the 15 July failed coup, which resulted in the death of at least 270 people.

The failed attempt to overthrow the Turkish government was followed by a crackdown on suspected Gulen supporters in the country.

At least 60,000 of his supporters have been suspended, fired or arrested since July. In August, Turkey submitted a request to the US government to extradite Gulen, who has denied any involvement in the coup.

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