Turkey Military Coup Fails, President Returns to Istanbul

A military coup attempt, which plunged Turkey into a long night of violence and intrigue on Friday, may have failed.

The coup threatened its embattled President, leaving nearly 200 dead and injecting new instability into a crucial NATO member and American ally in the chaotic Middle East.

The coup attempt was followed hours later by an equally dramatic public appearance by the President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose whereabouts had been unknown for hours after the plotters claimed to have taken control.

Flying into Istanbul Ataturk Airport from an undisclosed location early Saturday, Mr. Erdogan signaled that the coup was failed.

Turkey CoupThe government has rounded up thousands of military personnel on Saturday.

The personnel were said to have taken part in an attempted coup, moving swiftly to re-establish control.

By noon, there were few signs that those who had taken part in the coup attempt were still able to challenge the government, and many declared the uprising a failure.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called the insurrection “a stain in the history of democracy” at a news conference on Saturday in Ankara, the capital.

He raised the death toll in the clashes to 265, with 1,440 people wounded, and he said that 2,839 military personnel had been detained.

As the insurrection unfolded Friday night, beginning with the seizure of two bridges in Istanbul by military forces, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was not heard from for hours.

He finally addressed the nation from an undisclosed location, speaking on his cellphone’s FaceTime app — a dramatic scene that seemed to suggest a man on the grip of losing power.

But in the early hours of Saturday morning, he landed in Istanbul, a strong sign that the coup was failing.

According to the Turkish President after the private television channel NTV showed him greeting supporters, “A minority within the armed forces has unfortunately been unable to stomach Turkey’s unity.”

He blamed political enemies for the development, saying that “What is being perpetrated is a rebellion and a treason.

“They will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey”, Mr. Erdogan said.

He suggested that the plotters had tried to assassinate him, referring to a bombing in the Turkish Mediterranean resort town of Marmaris after he left on Friday.

“It would appear that they thought I was there,” he said.

Supporters of Mr. Erdogan responded to his call to take to the streets in Istanbul, and by Saturday morning, the coup appeared to be unraveling.

The state-run Anadolu Agency reported that about 200 unarmed soldiers had surrendered to the police in Ankara.

CNN Turk showed video of soldiers abandoning tanks in Istanbul, and by morning, civilians were climbing onto the tanks and waving flags, according to images posted on social media.

Anadolu said more than 1,500 members of the armed forces linked to the plot had been detained across Turkey, including a brigadier general in the country’s northeast.

Turkey’s acting chief of general staff, Gen. Umit Dundar, said on Saturday that 194 people had been killed, and he called 104 of them “coup plotters.”

Of the 90 others killed, 47 were civilians, the general said at a news conference in Ankara, the capital.

Seventeen police officers were killed in a military helicopter attack by coup plotters on a police special forces headquarters outside Ankara, Anadolu Agency had reported earlier.

CNN Turk reported that 12 civilians had died in an explosion at the Parliament building.

Martial law was declared after the coup attempt in the country, which has been convulsed by military takeovers at least three times in the past half-century.

Before he made his televised remarks from the airport, Mr. Erdogan was forced to use his iPhone’s FaceTime app from a secret location to broadcast messages beseeching the public to resist the coup attempt.

“There is no power higher than the power of the people,” he said amid contradictory accounts of who was in control.

“Let them do what they will at public squares and airports.”

After Mr. Erdogan spoke, many followers obeyed his orders to go into the streets, and mosque loudspeakers urged his supporters to protest the coup attempt.

The events began unfolding around 10 p.m. Friday as the military moved to stop traffic over two of Istanbul’s bridges, which cross the Bosporus and connect the European and Asian sides of the city.

There were reports of gunfire in Taksim Square, in central Istanbul, where pro-Erdogan supporters had gathered, but there were no reports of injuries, and it appeared that security forces were acting with restraint, the New York Times reports.

On the Bosporus Bridge, closed earlier in the evening by the military, there were reports of gunfire as protesters approached, and according to NTV, three people were hurt.

Some military officials spoke out against a coup, including the commander of the First Army, Gen. Umit Guler, who issued a statement, carried by a pro-government news channel, saying, “The armed forces do not support this movement comprised of a small group within our ranks.”

The Defense Department has roughly 2,200 uniformed military personnel and civilians in Turkey.

About 1,500 of them are based at Incirlik, an air base in southern Turkey near Syria.

The United States has used the base to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State.

Since March, Incirlik has been on an “elevated force protection level” amid concerns that militants were targeting it.

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter in May ordered all family members of military personnel based at Incirlik to leave the country.

 

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