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March 30, 2017

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Turkey sacks 350 police officers amid far-reaching graft scandal

ANKARA--The Turkish government has fired 350 police officers in Ankara, local media reported Tuesday, the latest twist in a vast corruption scandal that has ensnared key allies of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The officers were sacked by a government decree published at midnight and included chiefs of the financial crimes, anti-smuggling, cyber crime and organized crime units, the private Dogan News Agency reported.

The move comes as the government is trying to contain the massive political fallout from the graft probe that has become the biggest threat to Erdogan's 11-year rule.

Erdogan has branded the investigation a "dirty" plot to try to topple his government, indirectly blaming supporters of a powerful exiled Muslim cleric who wields considerable influence in the judiciary.

Dozens of leading businessmen and political figures — including the sons of three ministers — were rounded up in a massive sweep in Ankara and Istanbul in December.

The once-unassailable Turkish strongman responded by sacking hundreds of police officials across the country, including the powerful Istanbul police chief.

Erdogan's critics accuse him of desperately trying to protect his cronies, and the appointment of Selami Altinok, a little-known governor with no background in police work, as Istanbul's new police chief was further seen as an attempt to shut down the investigation.

With the latest round of dismissals, the total number of police officers removed from their posts has risen to 560 in Ankara alone, according to media reports.

Turkish prosecutor Muammer Akkas was also barred last month from expanding the investigation — which could also reportedly target Erdogan's son Bilal — over allegations he leaked information to the media.

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