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Turkey's Erdogan Urges Tanzania to End Gulen Ties

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a joint news conference after his meeting with Tanzania's President John Pombe Magufuli in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Monday Jan. 23, 2017.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday talked about trade and security on the first stop of an African tour, urging Tanzania's leader to shut institutions linked to a Muslim cleric who is accused by Turkey of leading a failed coup.

Erdogan met Tanzanian President John Magufuli in the city of Dar es Salaam, and he will return to Turkey on Wednesday after stops in Mozambique and Madagascar. The trip is part of Turkey's effort to develop relationships on the African continent, evident in the opening of more embassies and Turkish Airlines routes over more than a decade.

Erdogan said there is potential for partnership in tourism, agriculture, construction and other fields with Tanzania. A key priority for the Turkish government is also targeting international schools and other institutions inspired by cleric Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based critic of Erdogan who has denied involvement in the botched military uprising in Turkey in July.

"This organization is not only a threat to Turkey, it is a great threat to all countries where it operates," Erdogan said. "We are informing our friends about this organization so that they are not exposed to the difficulty, the pain, the disillusion we went through."

In Tanzania, 11 schools in the Feza system inspired by Gulen have a total of 3,000 students, just over half of them Muslim. The school leadership denies any link to the coup attempt that led to a purge of alleged loyalists of Gulen, who had expanded his international influence with a message of interfaith harmony.