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

  • Rezaul H Laskar, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 16, 2016 18:22 IST
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is seen amid his supporters at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey. (REUTERS)

The situation in Turkey remains fluid after elements in the army sought to stage a coup against authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish officials have said at least 60 people, most of the civilians and policemen, have died since the putsch began on Friday night.

A defiant Erdogan returned to Istanbul from a vacation and was welcomed by hundreds of his supporters, who answered his call to take to the streets to prevent a military takeover. The president has said the coup is over but reports of explosions and gunfire are still coming in from the capital Ankara and Istanbul and it isn’t clear who is in control of these cities.

Read: Turkey on ‘fire’ after military attempts coup to overthrow Erdogan govt

Here’s what we know so far about the coup:

Who’s behind the coup?

It appears some elements in the military were behind the move to oust Erdogan. Sections of the military have rallied behind the divisive president because there are reports of F-16 jets shooting down a helicopter carrying some of the coup plotters and mounting attacks on tanks outside the presidential palace.

Erdogan has also blamed Fethullah Gulen, a reclusive cleric who was once an ally of the president but now lives in exile in the US, of being involved in the coup. However, there’s no evidence so far to support this claim and Erdogan has for long blamed Gulen and his supporters for the government’s problems.

What could have led to the coup?

A statement from the military elements involved in the coup that was read out on national broadcaster TRT spoke of the erosion of democratic and secular rule of law by Erdogan’s government. The Turkish Army has traditionally projected itself as a champion of democracy and secularism and Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian ways and his Islamist leanings are believed to have angered some in the military.

Will the coup succeed?

The violence has not ended and social media accounts have beamed horrifying footage of helicopters with pro-coup personnel strafing crowds of protesters in Istanbul and tanks mowing down people on the streets. However, the coup does seem to be faltering as those behind it were unable to swiftly establish control over communications and the media. A clearer picture of how effectively Erdogan has managed to project his authority and re-establish control should emerge later today.

Read: EU urges ‘respect for democratic institutions’ in Turkey

What does this mean for Erdogan?

Erdogan has faced criticism within the country and abroad for his efforts to carry out constitutional changes to increase the power of the presidency but his Justice and Development Party retains a solid power base – it swept back to power in last year’s general election with the backing of almost 50% of voters. If Erdogan remains in power after the coup, experts expect the wounded president to only increase his efforts to increase his powers and crack down on political opponents and the media.

What is the fallout for India and its citizens?

Despite the recent terror attacks in several Turkish cities blamed on the Islamic State and Kurdish rebels, the country remains a draw for Indian tourists, some of whom have taken advantage of the fall in the value of the Turkish lira and reduced rates offered by Turkish tour operators. There have been no reports so far of Indian casualties and the foreign ministry has opened helplines in Istanbul and Ankara.

A brief statement from the external affairs ministry said India was closely watching the developments in Turkey and had called on all sides to support democracy and the mandate of the ballot and avoid bloodshed.

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