Recep Tayyip Erdogan directly suggested followers of Pennsylvania-based spiritual leader Fethullah Gulen have infiltrated the police and judiciary and are pushing a corruption probe against his allies.
Analysts pointed to an uneasy alliance between Mr Erdogan's Islam-based government and the secular military, which for years saw him with suspicion.
Mr Erdogan has frequently pointed to outside forces as trying to destabilise the country - most recently during massive summer anti-government protests - but he has broadened his claims in the latest crisis to include domestic foes working as "pawns".
Many believe the probe was orchestrated by followers of Mr Gulen, a moderate preacher whose network of Muslim with a global empire of business, media and education interests.
Until recently, he was a government backer - but the power feud between Mr Erdogan and Mr Gulen has become increasingly public.
Mr Erdogan suggested Mr Gulen's followers had infiltrated the police and the judiciary. "There is a serious smear campaign and there is an organisation, a gang that has established itself within the state," he said.
"There are judicial officials who are... smearing innocent people. They are within the police too."