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Tuesday, June 16, 1998 Published at 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK

World: Europe

Islamist purge in Turkish military

Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz chaired the council

Turkish military leaders have dismissed more than 160 military personnel for allegedly sympathising with Islamic militants.

The purge - the largest of its kind in recent years - includes more than 100 officers.

Turkish journalist Ferhat Boratav: "the message is clear"
The expulsions were decided at a special meeting of the Supreme Military Council, which brings together the 15 most senior military commanders under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, Mesut Yilmaz.

There is no right of appeal.

Correspondents say the military leaders called the meeting to put pressure on Mr Yilmaz to take more effective action against Islamic militancy.

Last year, pressure from the military forced Turkey's first Islamist-led government to resign.

In carefully placed leaks to the Turkish media recently, senior military sources have expressed renewed concern about growing support for Islamic fundamentalism.

In February, military and political leaders agreed on a series of laws to curb religious activism.

But many government deputies oppose the new measures which they believe will lose them support in their conservative strongholds.

The BBC's Ankara correspondent says that the military, which does not have to worry about winning elections, is not prepared to let the politicians off the hook.

Our correspondent says that since it intervened last year, in what local commentators described as a soft coup against the country's first ever Islamist-led government, the high command has defined a new role for itself in politics.

He says that overt military coups in Turkey may be a thing of the past but the generals still play a decisive role in the way the country is governed.

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