FEBRUARY 22 2010 13:25h
Turkish police Monday detained three retired generals as part of an investigation into an alleged military plot.
ANKARA, February 22, 2010 (AFP) - Turkish police Monday detained three retired generals as part of an investigation into an alleged military plot designed to help bring down the Islamist-rooted government, media reports said.
There was no immediate official confirmation of the four-star officers being taken into custody.
It coincided with rising tensions in Ankara between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) -- the moderate offshoot of a banned Islamist movement -- and its secularist opponents.
Police detained the men -- former air force chief Ibrahim Firtina, former navy chief Ozden Ornek and Ergin Saygun, the former First Army commander -- at their homes in Ankara and Istanbul, CNN-Turk and NTV news channels said.
Several retired and active-duty officers were also taken into custody, the reports said.
The generals' names were linked to a purported 2003 plot to discredit the AKP government which was published by the liberal Taraf daily in January.
The plan involved bombing two Istanbul mosques and escalating tensions with Greece by forcing Greek jets to down a Turkish plane over the Aegean Sea in a bid to show the government as inept, according to Taraf.
The Turkish army immediately denied the plot.
Firtina and Ornek had already testified to police in December over supposed links to the so-called Ergenekon network, an alleged secularist group accused of plotting to plunge the country into chaos and oust the AKP.
Dozens of suspects are already on trial as part of the investigation into the network, among them two retired generals accused of being ringleaders.
The Ergenekon investigation, which began in 2007, was initially hailed as a success in a country where the army has unseated four governments since 1960.
But it has since lost credibility as police started targeting journalists, academics and writers known as AKP critics, and some suspects accuse police of doctoring and fabricating evidence.
Government critics fear the coup allegations are orchestrated attempts by AKP supporters to cripple the army and remove a major obstacle to the party's alleged secret agenda of transforming Turkey into an Islamic state.