Forces loyal to the Turkish government fought out the remnants of a military coup attempt which crumbled after crowds answered President Tayyip Erdogan’s call to take to the streets and dozens of rebels abandoned their tanks.
The coup began with warplanes and helicopters roaring over Ankara and troops moving in to seal off the bridges over the Bosphorus Strait that links Europe and Asia in Istanbul. Authorities shut the strait to tanker traffic, shipping.
More than 194 people, including 41 police, 47 civilians, two military officers and 104 described as “coup plotters” were killed in clashes that erupted since Friday after a faction of the armed forces attempted to seize power using tanks and attack helicopters, some strafing the headquarters of Turkish intelligence and parliament in Ankara, others seizing a major bridge in Istanbul.
This coup attempt was defeated by the citizens of Turkey, regardless of their political affiliation.
People occupy a tank in Istanbul on the night of the coup attempt in Turkey. People occupy a tank in Istanbul on the night of the coup attempt in Turkey.
Erdogan appeared to accuse the coup plotters of trying to kill him, and promised to purge the armed forces which in the past have staged a number of successful coups. “They will pay a heavy price for this,” he said. “This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army. A successful overthrow of Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, would have marked one of the biggest shifts in the Middle East in years, transforming a major US ally while war rages on its border.
However, a failed coup attempt could still destabilise a Nato member that lies between the European Union and the chaos of Syria, with Islamic State bombers targeting Turkish cities and the government also at war with Kurdish separatists. Erdogan, who had been holidaying on the southwest coast when the coup was launched, flew into Istanbul before dawn on Saturday and was shown on TV outside Ataturk Airport.
Erdogan said the plotters had tried to attack him in the resort town of Marmaris. “They bombed places I had departed right after I was gone,” he said. “They probably thought we were still there.” The death toll has risen to 90, state-run Anadolu Agency reported, with 1,154 people wounded. Turkish authorities have detained 1,563 military personnel across the country.
The pro-coup faction said in an emailed statement from the Turkish Military General Staff’s media office address that it was determinedly still fighting. Calling itself the Peace at Home Movement, the faction also called on people to stay indoors for their own safety.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said rebel soldiers who had taken control of military aircraft had fired from the air and fighter jets had been scrambled to intercept them. Gunfire and explosions had rocked both Istanbul and 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.
Around 50 soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on one of the bridges across the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul after dawn on Saturday, abandoning their tanks with their hands raised in the air. Earlier, around 30 pro-coup soldiers had surrendered 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.
Erdogan and other officials blamed the attempted coup on followers of Fethullah Gulen, an influential cleric in self-imposed exile in the United States who once supported Erdogan but became a nemesis. The pro-Gulen Alliance for Shared Values said it condemned any military intervention in domestic politics.
Turkey has enjoyed an economic boom during his time in office and has dramatically expanded its influence across the region. However, opponents say his rule has become increasingly authoritarian. His AK Party has long had a strained relationship with the military and nationalists in a state that was founded on secularist principles after World War One. The military has a history of mounting coups to defend secularism, but has not seized power directly since 1980.
Pakistan has assured full support to Turkey after an attempt to overthrow Erdogan’s government was foiled. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatimi spoke to Turkish foreign minister and assured him of Pakistan’s “full support”. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the act, saying it was an attempt to harm democracy which was foiled by the people of Turkey. “Resolve demonstrated by the people of Turkey against a military coup is appreciated,” he said in a statement released by the Prime Minister House.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the nation is imposing a three-month state of emergency in the aftermath of last week’s bloody coup attempt. He met with his national security council and council of ministers, the latter of which approved the state of emergency recommendation.
“The purpose of the declaration of the state of emergency is, in fact, to be able to take the most efficient steps in order to remove this threat as soon as possible, which is a threat to democracy, to the rule of law and to the rights and freedoms of the citizens in our country,” Erdogan said, according to a government translation.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that there were significant failures in intelligence ahead of last Friday’s attempted military coup and that the armed forces would quickly be restructured. He said a new coup attempt was possible but would not be easy. He said there was no obstacle to extending the state of emergency beyond the initial three months if necessary
He pledged to overhaul the army in response to last week’s failed coup, a sign that a newly imposed state of emergency would be used to press on with a purge that has alarmed the West. In a sign of Turkey’s dismissal of outside criticism over how it has responded to the coup, the justice minister said Turkey would not bow to pressure from the European Union to rule out restoring the death penalty to execute the plotters.
Erdogan announced a state of emergency, a move he said would allow the government to take swift action against those who plotted the coup that killed more than 246 people and wounded more than 2,100 before it collapsed within hours. The possibility of Turkey bringing back capital punishment for the plotters has put further strain on Ankara’s relationship with the EU, which Turkey seeks to join but which demands candidates forego the death penalty.
Author is an Assistant Editor of Melange & handling International Affairs of COPAIR.