By Agencies – FINAL UPDATE
Two Turkish pilots who played a role in the downing of a Russian jet in November are in custody over the July 15 failed coup in Turkey, a Turkish official said.
The downing of the Russian fighter jet on the Syrian last November border sparked an unprecedented diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Russia, which ended last month when the two countries agreed to restore ties.
“Two pilots who were part of the operation to down the Russian Su-24 in November 2015 are in custody,” a Turkish official told AFP late on Monday.
When asked about the issue by the Turkish media, Justice Minister Bekir Bozda said there were reports of the pilots being detained but they were “yet to be confirmed”.
The official talking to AFP insisted that the military pilots have been arrested over links to the coup and not because of the attack on the Russian plane.
In another development, prime minister Binali Yildirim says Ankara has sent dossiers to the United States for the extradition of a US-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, over his alleged links to the failed coup attempt.
Yildirim accused the United States of double standards in its fight against terrorism. Washington has said it will only consider an extradition request if clear evidence is provided.
The Turkish government blames Gulen for orchestrating the attempted military coup, in which more than 200 people were killed.
Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup attempt and condemned it, however he did that only after it became clear that the military coup had indeed failed.
A total of 240 people, of whom 62 were police officers, 173 were civilians and five were soldiers, were killed during the failed coup attempt and 1,535 people were wounded, Anadolu Agency reported. A total of 24 coup plotters were also killed and 50 coup plotters were wounded.
Turkey has had a history of coup attempts, the last in 1997, which forced the resignation of then-prime minister Nemettin Erbakan.