Pro-government Turkish authorities on Wednesday (26 April) arrested more than 1,000 police officers and later suspended over 9,000 policemen on suspicion of having links with US-based Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen, whom the government accuses of plotting the July 2016 failed military coup.

The arrests were made as part of the President Tayyip Erdogan government's crackdown on the coup plotters. So far, 40,000 people have been arrested and nearly 120,000 have either been sacked or suspended — including soldiers, police, teachers, and public servants, the BBC reported.

The latest action comes days after Erdogan won a contentious referendum that will give more powers to the president.

Elaborating on the arrests, Turkey's Interior Ministry said that country-wide raids were conducted across the 81 provinces early on Wednesday morning. It was carried out as part of a probe led by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office.

"1,009 covert 'imams' in 72 provinces have been taken into custody so far," Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu was quoted by the state-run Anadolu Agency as saying in Ankara. "This is an important step for the Republic of Turkey." The Fetullah Terrorist Organization (Feto) reportedly refers to its cell leaders as imams, he added.

The security general directorate said that later in the day, some 9,103 policemen were suspended over suspected links to Feto.

Authorities added that the operation to nab other suspected Gulen supporters is continuing.

Ankara believes that Gulen has been planning and running a campaign to overthrow the Erdogan government by infiltrating Turkish institutions, mainly the military, police and judiciary.

Turkey President Erdogan
More than 1,000 police officers were arrested in Turkey on 26 April and 9,000 were suspended later in the day on suspicion of having links with US-based Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen - File photo Reuters