Turkey coup: Thousands on streets [video]


Thousands took to the streets of Turkey Saturday in support of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after authorities crushed a military coup that claimed at least 265 lives.

After facing down the bloodiest challenge to his 13-year rule, Erdogan triumphantly addressed flag-waving supporters in Istanbul following Friday's chaos in the strategic NATO member of 80 million people.

The authorities blamed Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric who is Erdogan's arch enemy, for the plot and lost no time in rounding up 2,839 soldiers over alleged involvement, amid global alarm over the extent of the retribution.

Turks woke up early Saturday to television pictures showing dozens of soldiers surrendering after the failed coup, some with their hands above their head, others forced to the ground in the streets.

"The situation is completely under control," Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said outside his Ankara offices, flanked by Turkey's top general who had himself been taken hostage by the plotters.

Describing the attempted coup as a "black stain" on Turkey's democracy, Yildirim said 161 people had been killed in the night of violence and 1,440 wounded.

General Umit Dundar, who stood in as acting chief of staff while Hulusi Akar was being held by the rebels, said 104 coup plotters has been killed. Akar was later rescued in an operation that marked the end of the plotters' hopes.

During a night where power hung in the balance, supporters of Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) defied the coup leaders' orders of a curfew and flooded the streets to block the attempt to overthrow the regime.

On Saturday, thousands of jubilant supporters again mobilised in response to Erdogan's call to fill Turkey's squares, massing in Taksim in central Istanbul, the president's home district of Kisikli, Ankara's Kizilay Square and in the coastal city of Izmir, AFP correspondents said.

Crackdown concerns

Friday's putsch bid began with rebel F-16 jets screaming low over rooftops in Ankara, soldiers and tanks taking to the streets and multiple explosions throughout the night in the capital as well as the biggest city Istanbul.

Parts of parliament were turned to rubble after being hit by air strikes from rebel jets.

Rebel troops also moved to block the two bridges across the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, culminating in a stand-off with an angry crowd.

Turks have not seen such scenes since 1980 when the military led by general Kenan Evren ousted the government and many had no desire to revive these memories.

As protesters poured onto the streets, an AFP photographer saw troops open fire on people gathered near one of the bridges, leaving dozens wounded.

There was chaos in the city as angry crowds jeered the passing tanks, with much smaller numbers welcoming the troops.

With the coup defeated, Turkey rounded up its backers, from rank-and-file soldiers to generals, fuelling concern over the risk of summary justice.

US President Barack Obama stressed the "vital need" for all parties to "act within the rule of law".

While condemning the coup bid, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said the plotters had to be dealt with "under the rule of law".

General Erdal Ozturk, commander of the Third Army, has been detained while Alparslan Altan, one of 17 judges on the constitutional court, was taken into custody.

Judicial authorities said 2,745 judges would also be sacked in the wake of the attempted coup.

In a call to his Turkish opposite number Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry offered Washington's continued support, but also denounced claims by some Ankara officials that the US had backed the coup.

Calls for extradition

The president's critics have long accused him of undermining modern Turkey's secular roots and of sliding into authoritarianism -- but he was believed to have won control of the military after purging elements who opposed him.

Turkey's once-powerful military has long considered itself the guardian of the secular state founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923.

It has staged three coups since 1960 and forced out an Islamic government in 1997.
Erdogan immediately pinned the blame on "the parallel state" and "Pennsylvania" -- a reference to Gulen, his arch-enemy whom he has always accused of seeking to overthrow him, and calling for his extradition.

But Gulen "categorically" denied any involvement in the plot, calling the accusation "insulting".

Meanwhile, Turkey demanded the extradition of eight people thought to have been involved in the putsch who landed in a Black Hawk military helicopter in Greece.

Istanbul authorities have sought to get life back to normal by reopening the bridges to traffic and gradually resuming service at Ataturk International Airport, which was shut down by the plotters.

But Washington on Saturday warned citizens against travel to the country, suspending flights and banning all airlines from flying to the United States from Turkey due to uncertainty after the coup bid.

Turkish authorities also imposed a security lockdown at the Incirlik air base in the southern province of Adana used by US and other coalition forces in the fight against militants in Syria, the US consulate said.

July 16, 2016

Another uprising attempt in Turkey could be staged at any time, Turkey's presidency said on Twitter on Saturday, adding it was necessary to stay in charge of the streets.
Operations to take back control of the armed forces headquarters in Ankara were still underway, a Turkish official said. Police special forces and the military are securing the perimeter of the headquarters, the official said.

"Shots were fired by a military officer from inside the walls earlier this morning."

The Turkish military has seized the offices of Turkish Radio and Television (TRT), the country's national public broadcaster, where an explosion was recently heard according to CNN-Turk, a local news outlet licensed by CNN.

Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen International Airport to continue processing flights as normal.

Malaysia Airports, the operator of Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (ISG), said on Saturday operations at the airport will continue to process flights in and out of Turkey despite an attempted coup by a military faction overnight.

Malaysia Airports said in a statement the airport, the second in Turkey's main city, would continue to provide assistance to passengers.

The number of dead from a coup attempt in Turkey has risen to 90, the state-run news agency Anadolu reported on Saturday, adding that 1,154 people were wounded.

Nearly 200 unarmed soldiers at the Turkish military headquarters have meanwhile surrendered, an official said, adding that special troops were currently securing the complex.

A total of 1,563 military officers detained across Turkey: government official.

Turkish security forces on Saturday rescued the country's top army general in an operation in Ankara after a coup attempt, taking him to a safe location, the private CNN-Turk television reported.
General Hulusi Akar was rescued after an operation was launched in Akinci air base, northwest of the capital, it said.

Earlier reports said he had been taken hostage in the earlier stages of the coup bid late Friday.
754 members of Turkish armed forces arrested across Turkey: state news agency

At least 60 people have been killed and 336 detained in a night of violence across Turkey sparked when elements in the military staged an attempted coup, a senior Turkish official said.

The majority of those killed were civilians and most of those detained are soldiers, said the official, without giving further details.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan emerged to crowds of supporters at Istanbul's main Ataturk airport early on Saturday after what officials said had been a coup attempt by a faction within the armed forces, footage on broadcaster NTV showed.

Turkey's Fox TV meanwhile broadcast a recording of Erdogan speaking earlier in the night, saying an uprising had been attempted against the solidarity and unity of the country but that no power was above the national will.

Istanbul airport hopes to resume international flights soon

Staff at Istanbul's Ataturk airport hope to resume international departures soon, European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol said early on Saturday.

All arriving flights are being diverted until then because there is no room for any more aircraft at the congested airport following the suspension of departures since 2031 GMT on Friday, the agency said in a bulletin to airlines.

"Ataturk hope to re-commence international departures shortly, but until they do, all inbound flights to Ataturk are being diverted," Eurocontrol said, although the "situation is unclear".

The Ankara air traffic control center is operating normally, it added. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim however told Turkey's NTV news channel that Ankara airspace is closed.

Erdogan urges supporters to take to streets after coup attempt

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urged people to take to the streets to protest against what he described as a coup attempt by a minority faction within the military, vowing that it would meet with a "necessary response".

He told a CNN Turk reporter via cellphone that Turkish people must gather in public squares to show their response to the attempted military takeover, in comments broadcast live on television.

Erdogan said he believed the attempted coup would be over within a "short time" and said those responsible would pay a heavy price in the courts.

He said the act was encourage by the "parallel structure" - his shorthand for followers of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Muslim cleric who he has repeatedly accused of attempting to foment an uprising among his followers in the judiciary and the military.

Earlier, Turkey's military said on Friday it had seized power, but the prime minister said the attempted coup would be put down.

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".

The armed forces had taken power in the country to protect the democratic order and to maintain human rights, the military said in a statement sent by email and reported on Turkish TV channels. All of Turkey's existing foreign relations would be maintained and the rule of law would remain the priority, it said.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said the chief of Turkey's military staff was among people taken "hostage" in the capital Ankara. CNN Turk also reported that hostages were being held at the military headquarters.

Yildirim said a group within Turkey's military had attempted to overthrow the government and security forces have been called in to "do what is necessary".

"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."

Those behind the attempted coup would pay the highest price, he added.

Footage on local television channels showed military vehicles blocking bridges over the Bosphorus in Istanbul and tanks deployed at the city's main airport. In the capital Ankara, warplanes and helicopters roared overhead. A Reuters journalist heard gunshots.

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 had summoned all police to duty in Ankara.

Turkey's top general 'held hostage' at military HQ

Turkey's top general has been taken hostage at the military headquarters in the capital Ankara after an attempt to bring down the government, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

"General Hulusi Akar has been taken hostage by a group in the military who attempted an uprising," the agency said citing "credible sources".

All flights from Istanbul's Ataturk airport cancelled

All flights from Istanbul's Ataturk Airport have been cancelled, a Reuters witness said on Friday, citing a pilot, after the military said it had taken control of the government.

Turkey's armed forces said on Friday they had taken power in the country to protect the democratic order and to maintain human rights.