Coup Appears To Falter As Crowds Greet Turkey’s Erdogan At Istanbul Airport

Turkish people protest against the coup in Ankara, Turkey, late Friday, July 15, 2016. Members of Turkey's armed forces said they had taken control of the country, but Turkish officials said the coup attempt had been... Turkish people protest against the coup in Ankara, Turkey, late Friday, July 15, 2016. Members of Turkey's armed forces said they had taken control of the country, but Turkish officials said the coup attempt had been repelled early Saturday morning in a night of violence, according to state-run media. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici) MORE LESS
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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the nation Saturday that his government was working to crush a coup attempt after a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire across the capital that left at least 17 dead and scores wounded.

Government officials said the coup appeared to have failed as Turks took to the streets overnight to confront troops attempting to take over the country. However, the sounds of huge blasts continued to ring out in the capital, Ankara, and Istanbul throughout the morning, including a bomb that hit the parliament complex.

Speaking on national television from Istanbul, Erdogan said the government was arresting coup supporters in the military and “they will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey,” according to a transcript of his remarks provided by his office. “Those who stain the military’s reputation must leave. The process has started today and it will continue just as we fight other terrorist groups.”

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, said more than 120 arrests were made.

Erdogan, who said his general secretary had been abducted by the coup plotters, flew into Istanbul’s Ataturk airport early Saturday and was greeted by large crowds. Hours earlier, as the coup attempt got under way, his office had declined to say where he was, and he was forced to give an interview over FaceTime to a television station.

The chaos capped a period of political turmoil in Turkey blamed on Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule, which has included a government shake up, a crackdown on dissidents and opposition media and renewed conflict in the mainly Kurdish areas of the southeast.

Turkey, a NATO member, is a key partner in U.S.-led efforts to defeat the Islamic State group, and has allowed American jets to use its Incirlik air base to fly missions against the extremists in nearby Syria and Iraq. A coup against the democratically elected government could make it difficult for the United States to continue to cooperate with Turkey.

U.S. President Barack Obama urged all sides in Turkey to support the democratically elected government. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and called for respect for democracy.

The coup attempt began late Friday, with a statement from the military saying it had seized control “to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for law and order to be reinstated.”

Fighter jets buzzed overhead, gunfire erupted outside military headquarters and vehicles blocked two major bridges in Istanbul. Soldiers blocked entry to Istanbul’s airport, where four tanks were stationed, according to the private Dogan news agency. Two other tanks and a military vehicle were stationed in front of the VIP terminal. Dogan said the soldiers had entered the tower and stopped all flights.

But the military did not appear unified, with top commanders taking to television to condemn the action and order troops back to their barracks.

“Those who are attempting a coup will not succeed. Our people should know that we will overcome this,” Gen. Zekai Aksakalli, the commander of the military special forces, told the private NTV television by telephone.

Fighter jets under the control of loyalist forces were flying over the capital to strike at helicopters flown by coup supporters, the state-run Anadolu news agency said. Private NTV television reported that one helicopter was shot down. Gunfire and explosions rang out.

Erdogan called on Turks to take to the streets across the country, and many did, marching through the streets of Izmir and Istanbul, waving Turkish flags and gathering in the main square in Ankara. The Dogan news agency reported that soldiers fired on a group of people trying to cross the Bosporus bridge to protest the attempted coup, and that some people have been hurt. TV footage showed people running for cover as shots rang out.

Troops also fired in the air to disperse a growing crowd of government supporters at the Taksim monument in Istanbul as military helicopters flew overhead. A nearby mosque made an anti-coup announcement over its loudspeakers.

During the fighting, 17 police officers were killed in a helicopter attack on police special forces headquarters on the outskirts of Ankara, Anadolu said.

An official at Haydarpasa Numune Hospital in Istanbul said at least 150 people were admitted with wounds, but would not comment on whether there were fatalities. NTV reported six dead had been brought to that hospital. An official at Istanbul’s Sisli Hamidiye Etfal Training and Research Hospital said they had also received dead and wounded. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to comment publicly.

Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman said a bomb hit one corner of a public relations building inside the parliament complex, injuring some police officers.

By Saturday morning, a top Turkish official said the coup attempt appeared to have been repelled. The senior official told The Associated Press that all government officials were in charge of their offices. The official requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Earlier, Nuh Yilmaz, a spokesman for Turkish National Intelligence told CNN Turk the coup attempt had been quashed, adding that military chief of staff Gen. Hulusi Akar was back in control. However, Erdogan raised doubts about that during his address, saying, “I don’t know what the situation is concerning our chief of military staff.”

As the crisis unfolded, there were reports that access to popular social media sites like Twitter and Facebook had been blocked within the country. Facebook declined comment, but Twitter said it suspected “intentional” interference with its service.


Soguel reported from Istanbul. Emrah Gurel and Cinar Kiper also contributed from Istanbul.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  1. I wanted to see this SOB hanging from a tree. The Turks are playing both sides with the West and ISIS just like Pakistan and the Taliban. One way or another the Russians are involved … the Montreux Convention treaty is front and center with Ukraine, Georgia, Romania, Bulgaria but especially Russia. If the Turks make noises over the treaty I would not be surprised to see the straights change hands with the Greeks taking the West and Bulgaria taking the East. Either that or a rump Muslim state along the lines of Kosovo acting like Panama. Turkey may fall apart … it’s still the sickest man of Europe. I don’t think Turkey would exist if it wasn’t for the drug trade. The Kurds deserve a state and the Cypriots deserve their whole island back … throw in the Armenians for war reparations and see Turkey shrink to half it’s current size. It’s just a dream but you have to dream big.

  2. I would prefer an orderly transition rather than blood in the streets. There is already too much instability in the region to be sanguine about a major nominally secular Muslin state – a NATO member, no less – falling in a bloody coup. I don’t deny that Erdogan has become increasingly dictatorial, just that I would prefer a peaceful political transition.

  3. Not lookin’ good for the coupsters. Classic “you come at the king, you best not miss” situation.

    Assuming the coup fails, Erdogan will use it as an excuse to (further) crack down on dissent, purge the military, increase security forces that are more directly under his control, and continue moving Turkey further away from Secularism. Good thing the rest of the region is so stable and trouble-free…oh, wait…

  4. A few thoughts:

    Erdogan has major support in Istanbul (where the crowds were on TV) from his time as Mayor - how much support he has beyond that is hard to say, but in general, even the Kurds are coming out against a military coup.

    The head of the General Staff is supporting Erdogan - not necessarily that he likes the guy, but supporting the democratic process.

    Most of the military appears to have no idea WTF this was.

    A bomb went off at parliament as even the opposition parties were expressing solidarity w/Erdogan.

    If - as seems likely, but is by no means 100% assured yet - this coup fails, this will serve to empower Erdogan in a lot of ways, even as he continues to move more and more toward authoritarian repression and moving away from the Kemalist populism established by Atatürk. As disorganized as this was, happening in a window where the coup plotters would be completely incapable of starting off by laying hands directly on Erdogan. They were able to take the head of the General Staff (ie: the top military officer), but now he’s free again… I dunno. There’s a level of incompetence and poor planning here that’s just shocking.

    Some of this makes absolutely no sense. There’s an attempt on Erdogan’s life - but the coup had F-16s drive off his plane the first time he tried to land. They’re willing to bomb a civilian center, but not shoot down his plane? They’ve got control of Ankara and they’re willing to fire on civilians… but they’re pushed out of a TV studio without a shot fired, so they lose control of the city?

    This is… I can’t even begin to express the juxtaposition of ruthlessness and inept passivity on display, and how weird this is.

  5. Francis’ whole “transformation” thing in the middle east, with Turkey as the go-to secular lynchpin, sure worked out well. But it’s Obama’s fault. Benghazi!

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