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Erdogan Vows to Fight Groups That Undermine Government

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Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, embattled by a corruption probe that has rocked his government, vowed to purge his administration of groups he said are plotting against it.

“You who hide within the state institutions should know that we will enter your den, search it and expose these organizations within the state,” Erdogan said yesterday, according to the state-run Anatolia News Agency.

Erdogan has been lashing out against alleged subversives ever since an investigation into suspected money-laundering and gold smuggling broke open last week, embroiling the sons of three ministers and the chief executive officer of Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS. More than 100 police chiefs and a senior financial crimes official have been dismissed since the arrest sweep that has ensnared dozens of suspects began on Dec. 17.

Markets have plunged on concern the arrests are part of an escalating power struggle between the government and the followers of U.S.-based Islamist cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who has a wide following in the police and judiciary.

The Borsa Istanbul 100 Index has fallen 8.2 percent since the operation began. The latest drop has sent stocks down a total of 24.6 percent since Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke first discussed tapering the U.S.’s bond-buying program on May 22. The lira was unchanged at 2.0915 against the dollar at 1:21 p.m. today in Istanbul.

‘Parallel Structure’

Erdogan said on Dec. 21 in Ordu, northern Turkey, that he won’t allow “a parallel structure within the state,” after Gulen said he saw efforts to destroy his community.

As police used water cannons and tear gas against anti-government protesters in Istanbul, Erdogan was welcomed yesterday by a group of supporters in white burial shrouds in the Black Sea port city of Trabzon who chanted, “We are with you even if it means death,” according to Hurriyet newspaper.

“There is an obvious treason here,” Erdogan told his backers. “We will settle this treason and this activity of spying through law and ballot box,” he added, without identifying anyone. Turkey will hold municipal elections on March 30.

Gulen yesterday appealed to the government to cleanse itself rather than purge opponents, saying “nothing can be fixed this way,” according to a website, Herkul, where followers post his speeches or videos of his sermons. Gulen also accused Erdogan’s government of violating Islam for referring to Muslims as gangs and bandits.

Interior Minister Muammer Guler said he told Erdogan on the first day of the investigation that he was ready to resign and was awaiting the prime minister’s decision, according to ANA.

To contact the reporter on this story: Selcuk Gokoluk in Istanbul at sgokoluk@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net