Angola has ordered the closure of a school linked to the Gulen movement, which is blamed by Turkey for a July coup attempt, an official source said on Wednesday.
Luanda also expelled all of the Turkish staff working at the Colegio Esperanca Internacional (Coespi) and their families – 66 people in total – saying that the closure was for “national security reasons”.
The Hizmet movement which ran the school is linked to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and operates schools across the world, including in Africa.
Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdogan has rallied African leaders on the continent to help him fight Gulen’s influence, lobbying hard against his longtime rival’s African network during a recent visit to the continent.
The schools are popular among Africa’s middle classes and are often rated as some of the best performing where they operate.
Turkish officials accuse Gulen of using his vast private education network to build influence and of running a “parallel state” inside Turkey that attempted to topple Erdogan during a failed coup on July 15.
Gulen, a former Erdogan ally, vehemently denies the allegations. A reclusive figure, he has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.
Hizmet describes itself as promoting Islam through charity efforts and educational work from Turkey to countries in Africa and central Asia as well as the United States.
In the decree signed by President Eduardo dos Santos and seen by AFP, Angola’s long-time ruler said that the closure was to “protect the well-being and security of the citizens… and territorial integrity”.
All of the Turkish staff linked to the school and their families have already been removed from Angola, an official source said.
Coespi was the only school linked to the Gulen movement in Angola and had 750 students aged between five and 14 years old.
Morocco has also closed all Gulen-linked schools in the kingdom since January.
Last week, Angolan Interior Minister Angelo de Veiga Tavares defended the closure during an interview on state TV, saying that it was a “sovereign” decision for Luanda to take.
“The Angolan government decision has nothing to do with pressure from other countries,” he said.