Turkey detains US army sergeant at Istanbul airport: pro-gov media

The American Turk had alleged ties with a "terror organization" claimed Aksam newspaper, which has close links to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's administration.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Turkish authorities detained a sergeant with the US army earlier this week at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport on the grounds he had ties with a "terrorist organization," pro-government media reported on Thursday.

The man identified Yahya Ozer (22) was an American with Turkish roots and was serving as a sergeant and translator at NATO's Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, claimed Aksam newspaper, which has close links to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's administration.

Ozer had an arrest warrant by a prosecutor in the Manisa province for alleged membership to the Gulenist movement, a Muslim Turkish group whose leader, Fethullah Gulen, resides in Pennsylvania. Erdogan's government labels the group, once powerful in the country's bureaucracy, a "terror" organization and claims it was responsible for mounting the botched military coup against the President's rule.

The news of the American soldier's arrest came hours after US President Donald Trump declared victory against the Islamic State (IS) group and ordered a withdrawal of all troops from northern Syria "as soon as possible."

The Incirlik Air Base, in Turkey's Mediterranean province of Adana, has been instrumental in the US-led Coalition's air campaign against IS in Syria and Iraq, where Kurdish forces served at the forefront of the war on the Islamist militants.

The young man was about to fly back home to the US when Turkish police apprehended him during a regular passport customs check, the paper went on to explain.

Aksam also alleged that Ozer was registered as staff at the Harmony Public Schools, a charter education institution in Texas, funded by Gulenists.

Upon his arrest, the US serviceman was taken to Turgutlu, Manisa, his native Turkish province, where his family members, some of them also in custody or under investigation, resided.

There are already several US individuals and Turkish staff working for American diplomatic posts held in Turkish prisons.

There has been no public reaction or confirmation from the US embassy in Ankara and Washington authorities regarding the incident. The Turkish government has not yet commented.

Editing by Nadia Riva