Turkish government says its spy agency has snatched 80 people from 18 countries

In covert operations in 18 countries, Turkey's intelligence agency has snatched around 80 Turkish citizens the government wanted for alleged links to the country's 2016 failed coup, a top Turkish official said Thursday.

Turkish citizens were wanted for alleged links to failed coup in 2016

Turkey has arrested 38,000 people for alleged connections to a failed 2016 coup to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Burhan Ozbilici/Associated Press)

In covert operations in 18 countries, Turkey's intelligence agency has snatched around 80 Turkish citizens who the government wanted for alleged links to the country's 2016 failed coup, a top Turkish official said Thursday.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag's comments in an interview with Haberturk television came after Turkey secretly arranged the deportation from Kosovo of six Turkish men — five teachers and a doctor — accused of supporting the coup attempt.

The move angered Kosovo's prime minister, who fired the country's interior minister and intelligence chief for not telling him about it, and drew sharp criticism from human rights groups.

Bozdag said the National Intelligence Agency had "bundled up and brought back" suspects linked to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen in covert operations in 18 countries. He did not name the countries, but said such operations would continue.

Turkey has accused Gulen of being behind the failed coup attempt that resulted in more than 250 deaths, a claim he denies.

The attempted coup on July 15, 2016, against Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was followed by a state of emergency, mass arrests and a wide-scale crackdown on civil servants, including teachers.

Turks chant slogans under a giant national flag as they arrive to attend funerals of the victims killed during the 2016 coup attempt. (Ali Unal/Associated Press)

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin denied that the Kosovo–based suspects were abducted through illegal operations. He insisted the six men from Kosovo were brought back in agreement with the country's authorities.

38,000 arrested for alleged links to coup

"We have never engaged in any illegal act in our struggle against [Gulen's movement]," Kalin said. "The event in Kosovo took place … within the framework of an agreement on the return of criminals."

Those deported from Kosovo worked in schools and clinics supported by Gulen's movement.

At home, Turkey has arrested more than 38,000 people for alleged links to Gulen, and fired some 110,000 public servants since the coup attempt. Many of those arrested or fired have proclaimed their innocence.