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Dozens of Turkish police officers detained for alleged spying, illegal wiretaps

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish police raided the homes of colleagues on Tuesday, detaining dozens of officers on suspicion of "spying" or of illegally wiretapping government officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkey's spy chief, news reports and officials said.

Police conducted overnight raids in 25 provinces, detaining the police officers, including at least one former senior-ranking anti-terrorism officer who was seen being taken away in handcuffs.

Turkish media reports said some of the officers were involved in a corruption probe launched in December that targeted four government ministers.

Erdogan has long claimed the corruption allegations that forced the ministers to resign were part of a coup attempt by followers of Fethullah Gulen, a moderate Islamist preacher living in the United States. Many of the officers involved in the corruption probe were removed from posts in a government purge earlier this year.

Erdogan also accuses the Gulen movement of being behind a series of leaked recordings posted on the Internet suggesting corruption by the prime minister and his family members. He has vowed to go after the Gulen movement and has said he would also seek Gulen's extradition from the United States.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Istanbul Chief Prosecutor Hadi Salihoglu said warrants were issued for a total of 115 police officers and 67 of them had been taken into custody so far.

Seventy-six of them are suspected of espionage for illegally wiretapping Erdogan, some government ministers and the Turkish intelligence chief, allegedly listening into conversations they held with foreign dignitaries and recording these conversations, Salihoglu said. He said the suspects were able to wiretap the Turkish officials by giving them code names and launching a fake probe into a fictitious terrorist gang.

Salihoglu said 39 other officers are also suspected of wiretapping legislators, journalists and high-level bureaucrats by using falsified documents.

Asked whether the operation targeting the Gulen movement would expand, Erdogan told reporters: "it looks like it, of course, of course."

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