Turkey coup bid: At least 265 dead, Erdogan says he’s in control | world-news | Hindustan Times
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Turkey coup bid: At least 265 dead, Erdogan says he’s in control

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared he was in control of the country early on Saturday as loyal military and police forces fought to squash a coup attempt during a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire that left dozens dead.

TurkeyAttemptedCoup Updated: Jul 17, 2016 08:53 IST
AP
Turkey coup
A Turkish anti-riot police officer stands guard on a tank after a military position on the Bosphorus bridge was taken over in Istanbul on Saturday.(AFP Photo)

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared he was in control of the country early on Saturday as loyal military and police forces quashed a coup attempt during a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire that claimed at least 265 lives.

Erdogan, who flew home early Saturday, said coup supporters “will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey.”

Read: Brothers shouldn’t spill blood: Chaos, violence on Turkey’s streets

The chaos capped a period of political turmoil in Turkey which critics blamed on Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule, which has included a government shake-up, a crackdown on dissidents and opposition media and renewed conflict in the mainly Kurdish areas of the southeast.

However, Prime Minister Benali Yildirim said 161 people were killed and 1,440 wounded in the overnight violence. He said 2,839 plotters were detained.

A Turkish policeman (centre) stands on a vehicle after a military position on the Bosphorus bridge was taken over in Istanbul. (AFP Photo)

Dundar said officers from the air force, the military police and the armoured units were mainly involved in the attempt.

More than 1,500 military personnel were arrested across the country, said a senior official who was not authorized to speak to the media. The state-run Anadolu news agency said more than 1,100 were wounded. Colonels and generals implicated in the rebellion were fired and loyal troops rescued the military chief who had been taken hostage at an air base on the outskirts of Ankara.

Erdogan flew into Ataturk airport early Saturday and was greeted by large crowds. He told them: “They have pointed the people’s guns against the people. The president, whom 52 percent of the people brought to power, is in charge. This government brought to power by the people is in charge. They won’t succeed as long as we stand against them by risking everything.”

Read: Turkish army stages coup, many dead: What we know so far

Military chief of staff General Hulusi Akar is taking over the command of the operation against the coup plotters, CNN-Turk said.

Fighting continued into the early morning, with the sounds of huge blasts echoing across Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, including at least one bomb that hit the parliament complex. Television footage showed images of broken glass and other debris strewn across a lobby leading to the assembly hall.

CNN-Turk said two bombs hit near the presidential palace, killing five people and wounding a number of others.

A policeman checks a soldier beaten up by a mob after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey. (Reuters)

Government officials, who blamed the unrest on a US-based Islamist cleric, said the coup failed as Turks took to the streets overnight to confront troops attempting to take over the country.

Read: Recep Erdogan, Turkey’s first directly elected president and ‘Sultan’

The chaos capped a period of political turmoil in Turkey which critics blamed on Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule, which has included a government shake-up, a crackdown on dissidents and opposition media and renewed conflict in the mainly Kurdish areas of the southeast.

A soldier beaten by the mob (centre) is protected by plain-clothed policemen after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul. (Reuters)

Turkey, a NATO member, is a key partner in US-led efforts to defeat the Islamic State group, and has allowed American jets to use its Incirlik air base to fly missions against the extremists in nearby Syria and Iraq. A coup against the democratically elected government could make it difficult for the United States to continue to cooperate with Turkey.

Turkey’s police chief Celalettin Lekesiz said 16 coup plotters were killed in clashes at Turkey’s military police command.

Read: Coups and plots in Turkey over the past 50 years

In images broadcast on CNN-Turk, dozens of soldiers walked among tanks with their hand held up, surrendering to government forces on Istanbul’s Bosporus Bridge. Discarded gear was strewn on the ground. People, some holding flags, climbed onto the tanks.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has called all legislators for an emergency meeting Saturday, Anadolu reported.

A man takes a selfie in front of a tank after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul. (Reuters)

US President Barack Obama urged all sides in Turkey to support the democratically elected government. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and called for respect for democracy.

The coup attempt began late Friday, with a statement from the military saying it had seized control “to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for law and order to be reinstated.”

Read: Fethullah Gulen, the arch-enemy of Turkish President Erdogan

Fighter jets buzzed overhead, gunfire erupted outside military headquarters and vehicles blocked two major bridges in Istanbul. Soldiers backed by tanks blocked entry to Istanbul’s airport for a couple of hours before being overtaken by pro-government crowds carrying Turkish flags, according to footage broadcast by the Dogan news agency.

But the military did not appear unified, as top commanders went on television to condemn the action and order troops back to their barracks.

A man lies in front of a Turkish army tank at Ataturk airport in Istanbul. (Reuters)