ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's armed forces will recruit more than 30,000 new personnel over the next four years, a defense ministry official said on Wednesday, to help plug staff shortages after widespread purges following a failed coup.
More than 110,000 people have been sacked or suspended in the military, civil service, judiciary and elsewhere in a security crackdown that followed the putsch in July. Some 20,000 people have been removed from the military system alone, among them 16,000 military students, the official told Reuters.
Human rights groups and some of Turkey's Western allies have voiced concern at the scope of the purges, fearing President Tayyip Erdogan is using the abortive military coup as a pretext to curtail dissent.
The 30,159 new personnel will be admitted into the armed forces through the naval and army military academies, while the rest will be employed as officials, sergeants and in other posts, the defense ministry official said.
A Turkish military spokeswoman confirmed new personnel would be hired, though she could not confirm the number. The armed forces said in an e-mail that it currently employs nearly 360,000 military personnel.
Ankara accuses the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for orchestrating the July 15 coup bid, in which rogue soldiers commandeered tanks, fighter jets and helicopters to attack the parliament and attempt to overthrow the government.
Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied involvement and condemned the coup.
The need to replenish military ranks comes at a time when Turkey is fighting, both inside and outside its borders, Islamic State militants and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is deemed a terrorist group by the European Union, United States and Ankara.
(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by David Dolan/Mark Heinrich)