Turkey coup: President Erdogan denounces 'treason' of attempt by military to take control of country

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan returns to Istanbul amid chaos on streets and violent clashes to claim he remains in control

Kim Sengupta,Chris Stevenson
Saturday 16 July 2016 03:13 BST
Turkey coup - 60 dead in 'act of treason' against the government

An extraordinary day of violence and tension has unfolded in Europe with an attempted military coup taking place in Turkey while France was still in a state of shock after a terrorist atrocity which claimed the lives of 84 people.

Just hours after the Turkish government had expressed sympathy over the killings in Nice it was facing a struggle for survival after a faction of the armed forces declared a takeover and looked to impose martial law.

Turkish soldiers secure the area as supporters of Recep Tayyip Erdogan protest in Istanbul's Taksim square (AP)

Soldiers took over a TV station and strategic points in Istanbul with tanks at the airport while warplanes flew over the capital, Ankara. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the ‘strongman’ who had been ruthlessly vesting himself with power was forced early to use a mobile phone and FaceTime video chat to claim that he remained in control. The coup attempt, he declared in the interview over mobile phone, would be met with a “strong response” and a “ heavy price” would be exacted from the plotters.

The President was believed to be on holiday, possibly at Marmaris, but eventually managed to return to Istanbul early on Saturday – in a sign of his apparent confidence over the outcome of the attempted coup. But events remained unclear as dawn broke on Saturday in Turkey, with gunfire and explosions still being heard - particularly in Ankara where local TV reported at least 42 people had died - and soldiers still on the streets.

Once in Istanbul, greeted by crowds of civilians, Mr Erdogan called the coup makers “a minority within the military.” The attempted coup was “an act of treason” and is a reason to ”clean up“ the armed forces, said Mr Erdogan.

According to Mr Erdogan, ”Turkey has a democratically elected government and president. We are in charge and we will continue exercising our powers until the end. We will not abandon our country to these invaders. It will end well.“

Turkey's history of military coups

Mr Erdogan and his supporters blamed the Islamist Gulen movement of the US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, once considered his allies and now his enemies, for the coup. However, the movement denied any involvement in the Turkish military coup attempt. The Alliance for Shared Values said “we condemn any military intervention in [the] domestic politics of Turkey.”

The military group who launched the attempted coup accused the government of eroding secular law, the legacy of Kemal Ataturk, and announced that a new constitution would be unveiled.

It remains unclear just how much support the attempted coup has among the Turkish military the chief of the armed forces, General Hulusi Akar, was thought to have possibly been taken hostage at his headquarters by the plotters. Mr Erdogan said after he arrived in Istanbul that he had no information on his whereabouts.

Chaos reigned in Istanbul as tanks drove through the streets (EPA/TOLGA BOZOGLU)

Crowds appeared to be answering a call from Mr Erdogan to take to the streets, defying orders by the coup leaders to stay indoors.

“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.

They were clashes between the military and police in several areas during Friday night. 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 the special forces headquarters there. There was also an apparent bomb blast at the parliament complex in Ankara.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, speaking on NTV, said that he had ordered the ”annihilation“ of military planes used by coup plotters. He said military jets had taken off from an air base in Eskisehir, east of Ankara. Government forces appeared to be gaining the upper hand in a number of areas as the night wore on and Mr Yildirim, speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, said more than 120 people have been arrested over the coup plot.

Barack Obama and other Western leaders, who had begun Friday by pledging solidarity with France to combat Islamist terrorism, ended it with Tutkey, a Nato member state, a key player in the Syrian civil war whose help is needed to combat Isis, in turmoil.

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