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Erdogan's Crackdown Continues, Firing Thousands

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, Associated Press image

JERUSALEM, Israel – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fired thousands of teachers, university professors and government workers suspected of collaborating with a U.S.-based cleric he accuses of orchestrating last weekend's attempted coup.

Erdogan says Turkish-born Sunni cleric Fethullah Gulen, who left Turkey more than 15 years ago, is behind the failed attempt. He discussed Gulen's extradition with President Obama Tuesday evening, the Anadolu Agency reported.

"The president made clear to President Erdogan that the United States doesn't support terrorists and doesn't support individuals who conspired to overthrow a democratically elected government," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

According to the report, Obama stressed America's "strong commitment…to the democratically elected civilian government of Turkey." He also praised the Turkish people for "defending the government and repelling the coup."

Earnest said the decision to extradite Gulen would be a legal decision based on the long-standing treaty between the U.S. and Turkey.

Meanwhile, an estimated 9,300 troops, police and judges were arrested after Erdogan returned from a seaside vacation to Istanbul last weekend to deal with the situation.

Some 15,200 state education employees, along with thousands of interior and finance ministry staff and more than 250 in the prime minister's office have lost their jobs. He also revoked dozens of radio and television station licenses.

Earlier in the week, Erdogan told reporters he's reviving a shelved plan to build a replica of a barracks in central Istanbul commemorating an Islamic uprising in the early 20th century.

In June 2013, Erdogan shelved plans to build the monument following social protests at Taksim Square's Gezi Park in central Istanbul.

The plan, which included a mosque and some cultural attractions, was abandoned after images of riot police spraying demonstrators with water cannons and tear gas went international.

According to some reports, the park also symbolizes the rise of Turkey's secular face following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Erdogan wants Turkey to have an Islamic, not a secular, face.

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