Turkish army attempts military coup against Erdogan government

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Turkish soldiers are seen on the Asian side of Istanbul, Friday, July 15, 2016. A group within Turkey's military has engaged in what appeared to be an attempted coup, the prime minister said, with military jets flying over the capital and reports of vehicles blocking two major bridges in Istanbul. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told NTV television: "it is correct that there was an attempt," when asked if there was a coup. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

ANKARA – A group within Turkey’s military has attempted to overthrow the government and security forces have been called in to “do what is necessary”, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Friday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on people to ‘take to the streets’ following an apparent coup attempt by some members of the Turkish military on Friday.

Speaking to CNN Turk on a video phone call Erdogan called on the nation to gather in the squares in response to the “attempted uprising”. He said it was an act encouraged by “parallel structure”.

At approximately 1 am local time, Turkish army helicopters opened fire on the intelligence headquarters in Ankara and guards returned fire, Al Arabiya reported. Witnesses were quoted as saying they heard an explosion in the capital.

Tanks opened fire around the Turkish parliament building, Reuters reported. Elsewhere in Istanbul there were reports of gun fire coming from the airport.

Earlier reports suggested that the coup attempt was led by a military faction loyal to US-based cleric Fethulah Gulen, this was later repeated by Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag in a television interview.

However, a group close to Gulen denied such accusations and claimed that those involved in the coup attempt were “highly irresponsible”.

If successful, the overthrow of President Tayyip Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, would amount to one of the biggest shifts in power in the Middle East in years.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the elected government remained in office. There was no immediate word from Erdogan. The Turkish sister channel of CNN said he was “safe”.

“Some people illegally undertook an illegal action outside of the chain of command,” Yildirim said in comments broadcast by private channel NTV.

“The government elected by the people remains in charge. This government will only go when the people say so.”

And Yildirim said those responsible for what he described as an attempted coup by a faction within the military on Friday would “pay the highest price”.

But Turkish military later released a statement in which it said it had taken over for democratic order, adding that human rights would remain.

But CNN Turk later reported that some hostages had been taken at the Turkish military headquarters in Ankara. In a statement the Turkish military said all existing foreign relations would continue.

Meanwhile Reuters cited a pilot who said all flights from Istanbul’s Ataturk airport had been cancelled after the events in Turkey.

Turkey, a NATO member with the second biggest military in the Western alliance, is one of the most important allies of the United States in the fight against ISIS.

It is a principal backer of opponents of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in that country’s civil war, and host to 2 million Syrian refugees.

The country has been at war with Kurdish separatists, and has suffered numerous bombing and shooting attacks this year, including an attack two weeks ago by Islamists at Istanbul’s main airport that killed more than 40 people.

Dogan News Agency footage showed cars and buses being diverted. CNN Turkey showed two military vehicles and a group of soldiers lined up at the entrance of one of the bridges in Turkey’s biggest city.

A Turkish official who did not want to be named said soldiers had been deployed in other cities in Turkey, but did not specify which ones. Dogan News Agency reported the national police directorate summoned all police to duty in Ankara.

After serving as prime minister from 2003, Erdogan was elected president in 2014 with plans to alter the constitution to give the previously ceremonial presidency far greater executive powers.

His AK Party, with roots in Islamism, has long had a strained relationship with the military and nationalists in a state that was founded on secularist principles after World War One, and which has a history of military coups.

A Turkish military faction attempting a coup has control of some tanks and has ordered its forces to try to take over the streets but has been unable to do so in many areas, a senior Turkish government official said.  The official also said that insecurity was likely to continue for the next 24 hours but would be continued.

In an interview with CNN Turk Erdogan told a reporter on the station from the screen of a smartphone that he believed the uprising would be resolved ‘within a short time’.

He added that he did not believe that the ‘coup plotters’ would be successful and that he would be returning to Ankara.

His remarks followed an earlier statement by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim that a group within Turkey’s military had attempted to overthrow the government and security forces had been called in to do what was necessary.

Erdogan’s Call Answered 

An attempted Turkish military coup appeared to crumble in the early hours of Saturday after crowds answered President Tayyip Erdogan’s call to take to the streets to support him.

Erdogan, who had been holidaying on the coast when the coup was launched, flew into Istanbul before dawn on Saturday and was shown on TV appearing among a crowd of supporters outside the airport, which the coup plotters had failed to secure.

The uprising was an “act of treason”, and those responsible would pay a heavy price, he later told reporters at a hastily arranged news conference. Arrests of officers were under way, and it would go higher up the ranks, culminating in the cleansing of the military.

Gunfire and explosions had rocked both the main city Istanbul and capital Ankara in a chaotic night after soldiers took up positions in both cities and ordered state television to read out a statement declaring they had taken power.

But by early Saturday, Reuters journalists saw around 30 pro-coup soldiers surrender their weapons after being surrounded by armed police in Istanbul’s central Taksim square.

They were taken away in police vans as a fighter jet repeatedly screeched overhead at low altitude, causing a boom that shook surrounding buildings and shattered windows.

Before returning to Istanbul, Erdogan appeared in a video call to the studio of the Turkish sister channel of CNN, where an announcer held up a mobile phone to the camera to show him. He called on Turks to take to the streets to defend his government and said the coup plotters would pay a heavy price.

By the early hours of Saturday morning, lawmakers were still hiding in shelters inside the parliament building in Ankara, which had been fired on by tanks. Smoke rose up from nearby, Reuters witnesses said. An opposition MP told Reuters parliament was hit three times and that people had been wounded.

A Turkish military commander said fighter jets had shot down a helicopter used by the coup plotters over Ankara. State-run Anadolu news agency said 17 police were killed at special forces headquarters there.

As the night wore on, momentum turned against the coup plotters. Crowds defied orders to stay indoors, gathering at major squares in Istanbul and Ankara, waving flags and chanting.

“We have a prime minister, we have a chief of command, we’re not going to leave this country to degenerates,” shouted one man, as groups of government supporters climbed onto a tank near Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.

Erdogan and other officials blamed loyalists of a U.S.-based cleric for the coup attempt; his movement denied any part in it.

In the meantime, the United States declared its firm backing for Erdogan’s government. Secretary of State John Kerry said he phoned the Turkish foreign minister and emphasized “absolute support for Turkey’s democratically elected, civilian government and democratic institutions”.

The coup began with warplanes and helicopters roaring over Ankara and troops moving in to seal off the bridges over the Bosphorus that link Europe and Asia in Istanbul.

Reuters reporters saw a helicopter open fire in Ankara. Anadolu said military helicopters had fired on the headquarters of the intelligence agency. 

In the first hours of the coup attempt, airports were shut and access to internet social media sites was cut off.

Soldiers took control of TRT state television, which announced a countrywide curfew and martial law. An announcer read a statement on the orders of the military that accused the government of eroding the democratic and secular rule of law. The country would be run by a “peace council” that would ensure the safety of the population, the statement said.

Shortly afterwards, TRT went off the air. It resumed broadcasting in the early hours of Saturday.

Agencies 

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