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Turkish military denies plans to overthrow Erdogan

The Turkish military has said media speculation that it is planning coup is false and is designed to sap the morale of the armed forces. The military has been brought under civilian control over the past decade.

The Turkish military on Thursday issued a rare political statement lambasting unnamed media outlets and threatening legal action for speculation the armed forces were planning a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Faced with spillover from the war in Syria, a resurgent Kurdish uprising and the threat of "Islamic State," the military said some media organizations without any basis were attempting to "negatively affect the morale and motivation of our armed heroes, and make all our members uncomfortable."

Considered the guardian of Turkey's secular state and unitary structure, the second largest army in NATO has carried out coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980, as well as a soft coup in 1997 to remove Erdogan's mentor, the Islamist premier Necmettin Erbakan.

Military's clipped wings

However, more than a decade of rule under Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) has brought the military gradually under civilian control, making the prospect of a coup unlikely.

The statement said the armed forces consistently worked to

uphold democracy and the constitution.

"The Turkish armed forces are based on discipline, unconditional obedience and a unified chain of command," the military said. "There can be no talk about any illegal action that is outside the command structure or which compromises it."

Coup rumor mill

It was unclear to which media reports the military was referring.

Last week, the US-based "Newsweek" published an article by Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official in the George W. Bush administration and scholar at the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank, in which he argued the military could overthrow Erdogan. The article fueled speculation in Turkey.

However, the Turkish daily "Hurriyet" suggested the military's statement was related to allegations that followers of Erdogan's erstwhile ally-turned-foe, the US-based preacher Fetullah Gulen, were planning a coup through officers linked to the Gulen movement.

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Turkey: Defiant journalists

Since a fall out in 2013 between Erdogan and Gulen over a corruption scandal, the government has accused the Gulen movement of forming a "parallel" state structure by infiltrating the police, judiciary, military and other state institutions.

An increasingly autocratic Erdogan has since purged state institutions of suspected Gulenists and labeled followers as members of an illegal terrorist organization planning to overthrow the government.

The Gulen movement runs hundreds of schools around the globe and owns media outlets such as the "Zaman" daily - recently taken over by the government. He has ties to hundreds of businesses, thereby putting vast economic resources at its disposal.

The military's statement comes as Erdogan is away for a week in Washington, where

he faces a cool reception

amid US concerns over the deterioration of democracy and

press freedom,

as well as his harsh crackdown on Kurds.

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