Turkish special forces captured a group of rebel commandos who tried to seize or kill President Tayyip Erdogan during a failed coup, and a government minister said that the plotters would “never see God’s sun as long as they breathe”.
Drones and helicopters pinpointed the location of the 11 fugitive commandos in forested hills around the Mediterranean resort of Marmaris after a two-week manhunt, an official said on Monday. They were part of a group that attacked a hotel where Erdogan was holidaying on the night of the July 15 coup bid.
The operation took place overnight, after the government tightened its control over the military by dismissing over 1,000 more soldiers, widening the post-coup purges of state institutions that have targeted tens of thousands of people.
The coup attempt and resulting purges have shocked Turkey, which last saw a violent military power grab in 1980, and have shaken confidence in the stability of a NATO member key to the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State and to stopping illegal migration to Europe.
Economy minister Nihat Zeybekci said coup plotters would bitterly regret trying to overthrow Turkey’s democracy, in words reflecting the depth of anger among the thousands of Turks who have attended rallies to condemn the coup night after night.
“We will make them beg. We will stuff them into holes, they will suffer such punishment in those holes that they will never see God’s sun as long as they breathe,” Zeybekci was quoted by the Dogan news agency as telling an anti-coup protest in the western town of Usak over the weekend.
“They will not hear a human voice again. ‘Kill us’ they will beg,” he said.
Erdogan blames followers of US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen for the coup bid and has vowed to rid state institutions of his influence. But the extent of the purges, and suggestions that the death penalty could be reintroduced, have sparked concern in Western capitals and among rights groups.
Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, has denied involvement.
Erdogan and his government have been angered by the response of Western allies to the abortive coup and its aftermath, accusing them of being more concerned about the rights of the plotters than the gravity of the threat Turkey has faced.