Turkey Army Says It Seizes Power; Erdogan Urges His Supporters To Take To Streets

ISTANBUL/ANKARA – Turkey’s military said on Friday it had seized power but President Tayyip Erdogan vowed that the attempted coup would be put down.

If successful, the overthrow of Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, would be one of the biggest shifts in the Middle East in years, transforming one of the most important US allies in the region while war rages on its border.

“We will overcome this,” Erdogan said, speaking on a video call to a mobile phone held up to the camera by an announcer on the Turkish sister station of CNN. He called on his followers to take to the streets to defend his government and said the coup plotters would pay a heavy price.

An official said Erdogan was speaking from Marmaris on the Turkish coast where he was on holiday. Erdogan said he would swiftly return to Ankara.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the elected government remained in office. However, it appeared that those behind the coup had the upper hand initially.

Airports were shut, access to Internet social media sites was cut off, and troops sealed off the two bridges over the Bosphorus in Istanbul, one of which was still lit up red, white and blue in solidarity with victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in France a day earlier.

Warplanes and helicopters roared over the capital Ankara. An explosion was heard in Ankara, where a helicopter opened fire.

Soldiers took control of TRT state television, which announced a countrywide curfew and martial law. An announcer read a statement on the orders of the military that accused the government of eroding the democratic and secular rule of law. The country would be run by a “peace council” that would ensure the safety of the population, the statement said.

TRT later went off the air.

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.

NOT A TINPOT COUP

A senior EU source monitoring the situation said: “It looks like a relatively well orchestrated coup by a significant body of the military, not just a few colonels. They’ve got control of the airports and are expecting control over the TV station imminently. They control several strategic points in Istanbul.

“Given the scale of the operation, it is difficult to imagine they will stop short of prevailing. It’s not just a few colonels,” the source repeated.

One European diplomat was dining with the Turkish ambassador to a European capital when guests were interrupted by the pinging of urgent news on their mobile phones.

“This is clearly not some tinpot little coup. The Turkish ambassador was clearly shocked and is taking it very seriously,” the diplomat told Reuters as the dinner party broke up. “However it looks in the morning, this will have massive implications for Turkey. This has not come out of nowhere.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking jointly after talks in Moscow, both said they hoped bloodshed would be avoided. The US State Department said Americans in Turkey should shelter indoors. Other countries issued similar advice.

Turkey, a NATO member with the second biggest military in the Western alliance, is one of the most important allies of the United States in the fight against Islamic State, which seized swathes of neighbouring Iraq and Syria.

Turkey is one of the main backers of opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country’s civil war, host to 2.7 million Syrian refugees and launchpad last year for the biggest influx of migrants to Europe since World War Two.

Celebratory gunfire erupted in Syria’s capital Damascus as reports emerged that Erdogan had been toppled, and people took the streets to celebrate there and in the government-held section of the divided city of Aleppo.

Turkey has been at war with Kurdish separatists, and has suffered numerous bombing and shooting attacks this year, including an attack two weeks ago by Islamists at Istanbul’s main airport that killed more than 40 people.

In an earlier statement sent by email and reported on TV channels, the military said it had taken power to protect the democratic order and to maintain human rights. All of Turkey’s existing foreign relations would be maintained and the rule of law would remain the priority, it said.

After serving as prime minister from 2003, Erdogan was elected president in 2014 with plans to alter the constitution to give the previously ceremonial presidency far greater executive powers. His opponents say his rule has become increasingly authoritarian.

His AK Party, with roots in Islamism, 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 secular principles, but has not seized power directly since 1980.

Prime Minister 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.”
If successful, the overthrow of Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, would be one of the biggest shifts in the Middle East in years, transforming one of the most important U.S. allies in the region while war rages on its border.

“We will overcome this,” Erdogan said, speaking by mobile phone to the Turkish sister station of CNN. He called on his followers to take to the streets to defend his government and said the coup plotters would pay a heavy price.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the elected government remained in office. However, it appeared that those behind the coup had the upper hand initially.

Airports were shut, access to Internet social media sites was cut off, and troops sealed off the two bridges over the Bosphorus in Istanbul, one of which was still lit up red, white and blue in solidarity with victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in France a day earlier.

“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.”

1 reply
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    ISTANBUL – Turkey’s military announced on Friday night that the army had taken over “the entire management of the country to restore rule of law”, with reports early Saturday that military helicopters had fired on police headquarters in the capital, Ankara.

    Loud explosions were reported in Ankara early Saturday and CNN Turk reported an explosion at the state-run television building. Turkey’s state-run news agency reported that military helicopters have also attacked the headquarters of TURKSAT satellite station on the outskirts of Ankara.

    Reuters, citing witnesses, reported that tanks surrounding the parliament building in Ankara had opened fire. The Turkish news agency Dogan reported that soldiers had opened fire on people who were crossing Istanbul’s Bosporus Bridge to protest the coup attempt and some people had been wounded.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking by cell phone to CNN Turk from an unknown location, vowed that Turkey would “overcome this invasion” and called on Turks to “gather in squares and see what this minority can do with their tanks and artillery against the people.”

    “Throughout history those who make coups have been unsuccessful, and I absolutely believe that these will be unsuccessful as well,” Erdogan said, adding that the architects of the takeover attempt “will absolutely pay the price for this in heaviest manner.”

    A military statement read on Turkish state TV announced that martial law had been imposed across the country and a curfew had been declared. The statement added that Turkey was now being run by a “peace council” and that a new constitution would be drawn up soon.

    Dozen of tanks were seen moving toward a palace that is now used by the prime minister and deputy prime ministers. A civilian car tried to stop one of the tanks, but it rammed through the vehicle as those in the car escaped.

    Earlier, Dogan published a statement from the military saying the coup was carried out “to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for the law and order to be reinstated.”

    The military statement went on to say that “all international agreements and commitments will remain. We pledge that good relations with all world countries will continue.”

    Reuters, citing a witness, reported that gunshots were heard in Ankara shortly before 11 p.m. local time Friday. As military helicopters flew over the entertainment hub of Beyoglu district in Istanbul, televisions aired footage of military tanks and TV stations reported Turkish state TV TRT had been taken over by military officials.

    Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım admitted to Haberturk TV that an “attempt” had been made against the government and warned “those who carry out this attempt will be subjected to heaviest punishment.”

    Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag also spoke on national TV, calling on “everyone to raise their voices against this attempt by the military and to embrace democracy.”

    There were no immediate reports of any casualties, though local media reported that ambulances wre seen in front of Turkish military headquarters.

    Early Saturday, Reuters reported that witnesses had heard gunfire at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport where four tanks had been stationed. Two other tanks and a military vehicle were stationed in front of the VIP terminal. The Dogan news agency reported that soldiers had earlier entered the control tower and stopped all flights.
    Soldiers and military vehicles also blocked one-way traffic on the Bosporus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridges in Istanbul, which link the continents of Europe and Asia.

    In Washington, the National Security Council said President Barack Obama had been briefed on developments in Turkey and would continue to get regular updates on the “unfolding situation.”

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in Moscow for talks with Russian officials on Syria on Friday, told reporters he didn’t have details of the situation rapidly unfolding on the ground in Turkey and said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on developments.

    Kerry did express hope that the key ally and strategically important member of the coalition fighting ISIS would remain at peace.

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