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ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish authorities have issued detention warrants for 216 people, including former finance ministry personnel, suspected of having links to last year's failed coup attempt, the state-run Anadolu news agency said on Wednesday.

It said 17 former finance ministry personnel had been detained so far and another 65 were sought over alleged links to Gulen's network, Anadolu said.

Separately, authorities carried out operations across 40 provinces targeting "private imams" believed to be recruiting members to the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen from Turkey's armed forces.

Ankara blames Gulen for orchestrating the July 15 coup attempt last year and has repeatedly demanded the United States extradite him, so far in vain. Gulen denies involvement.

In the aftermath of the coup, more than 50,000 people have been jailed pending trial and some 150,000 have been sacked or suspended from their jobs in the military, public and private sector.

The extent of the purges has unnerved rights groups and Turkey's Western allies, who fear President Tayyip Erdogan is using the abortive putsch as a pretext to stifle dissent.

The government, however, says the measures are necessary due to the gravity of the threats it is facing following the military coup attempt, in which 240 people were killed.

(Reporting by Daren Butler and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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Reuters