Pristina (AFP) – Kosovo’s prime minister has sacked his top security chiefs and ordered a probe into the expulsion of six members of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen’s movement, which is blamed by Turkey for a 2016 coup attempt.
Five teachers at a Gulen school and a doctor were spirited back to Turkey on Thursday in a covert operation carried out by Kosovo’s interior ministry and spy service together with Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT).
Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj told reporters after an emergency meeting of his national security council on Saturday that he has dismissed interior minister Flamur Sefaj and intelligence chief Driton Gashi over their involvement in the operation.
“They were obliged to inform me (about the expulsion). They did not. They did not have enough trust to share the case with me, so I no longer trust them. They have lost my confidence,” he said.
He also said he has ordered each institution involved to “fully engage in clarifying institutional responsibilities, possible constitutional and legal violations and immediately undertake comprehensive, detailed investigations”.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit out at the move to dismiss the officials and appeared to suggest Haradinaj had been influenced to take such a decision.
“Hey Kosovo’s prime minister, under whose instruction did you take such a step? Since when did you start to protect those who tried to launch a coup in the Turkey?
“How can you as a brother welcome to your bosom those involved in the coup attempt against Turkey, you will have to account for this.”
And Erdogan added: “We have proven many times over the past four, five years that we are a country that cannot be brought to its knees by dirty alliances.”
– Gulen: ally, now foe –
Gulen, a onetime ally turned foe of Erdogan who now lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, is accused by Ankara of ordering the July 2016 failed military coup.
Gulen strongly denies the claims.
Turkish state news agency Anadolu described the six men expelled from Kosovo as senior individuals in the Gulen movement.
The Istanbul prosecutor is investigating the men who, according to Anadolu, were organising the movement of Gulenists from Turkey to European countries and the United States.
One of the six, Kahraman Demirez, is accused of actively helping to increase involvement in the movement in the Balkans while Cihan Ozkan is suspected of sending money collected from Balkan countries to leaders of the Gulen movement in Pennsylvania, Anadolu said.
Children of top politicians in Kosovo, including President Hashim Thaci’s son, go to Gulen schools.
Thaci has also protested that he had not been informed of the operation.