Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. File picture: Burhan Ozbilici

Istanbul -

Police searched 12 homes and detained 15 people, including a former bodyguard of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in operations on Tuesday aimed at catching those accused of wiretapping top officials.

The wiretaps were allegedly the source of leaked audio recordings posted online this year, ahead of local elections in March, purporting to show corruption among high-level government officials and allied businessmen.

Authorities shut down Twitter and YouTube to block the leaks.

The sites were only reopened by court order.

The raids, in the capital Ankara and other areas, included the homes of ex-police commanders, according to local media.

Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have blamed the wiretapping on Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish-born Muslim cleric living in the United States who leads a global Islamic movement.

The two were once allies but fell out.

Eight Turkish police officers were arrested in April under similar circumstances, just days after Erdogan, in his victory speech after the elections, pledged to hunt down his enemies make them “pay the price.”

The leaks started after prosecutors and police in December arrested leading businessmen with links to the government and top officials as well as ministers' sons.

Four ministers resigned as a result of the corruption probe.

The government responded to the arrests by sacking and relocating hundreds of police officers and prosecutors and pushing through a law to reform the judiciary, large parts of which were struck down by the Constitutional Court.

Most of the investigations in the corruption allegations have since been dropped. - Sapa-dpa