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Turkish coup bid crumbles as crowds answer call to streets, President Erdogan returns
Saturday July 16, 2016 8:15 AM, Agencies

Turkish people took the streets across Turkey to protest against an attempted military coup in Istanbul and Ankara.

Erdogan, who had been holidaying on the coast when the coup was launched, flew into Istanbul before dawn on Saturday and was shown on TV appearing among a crowd of supporters outside the airport, which the coup plotters had failed to secure.

The uprising was an “act of treason”, and those responsible would pay a heavy price, he later told reporters at a hastily arranged news conference. Arrests of officers were under way, and it would go higher up the ranks, culminating in the cleansing of the military.

Speaking via video chat feature from a cellphone, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “I am calling on our nation. Go to the squares, let us give them the best answer.”

Throngs gathered in public squares and streets to protest the military uprising in Ankara, Istanbul, Diyarbakir, Edirne, Denizli, Kayseri, Samsun, Hatay, Yalova, Manisa, Erzurum, Izmir, Zonguldak, Malatya, Eskisehir, Sanliurfa, Adana, Sakarya, Kirikkale, Nevsehir, Sivas and several other provinces, local media reports said.

People chanted slogans as "No coup" and "Soldier to soldier against terror".

In Ankara, people gathered in Kizilay Square located in the city center and tried to stop tanks by throwing stones and sticks.

In the southeastern province of Diyarbakir, people gathered at the AK Party's provincial office to show their support for the president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In Kayseri, people gathered in front of the Kayseri Governor's Office to show their response to the military uprising by waving Turkish flags.

People chanted slogans in Kayseri as "We are all soldiers, we are all police". Some streets were closed to the traffic and police took security measures in the province.

Gunfire and explosions had rocked both the main city Istanbul and capital 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.

But by early today, Reuters journalists saw around 30 pro-coup soldiers surrender 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.

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 one of the most important US allies while war rages on its border. A failed coup attempt could still destabilise a pivotal country.

Before returning to Istanbul, Erdogan appeared in a video call to the studio of the Turkish sister channel of CNN, where an announcer held up a mobile phone to the camera to show him. He called on Turks to take to the streets to defend his government and said the coup plotters would pay a heavy price.

By the early hours of today morning, lawmakers were still hiding in shelters inside the parliament building in Ankara, which had been fired on by tanks. Smoke rose up from nearby, Reuters witnesses said. An opposition MP told Reuters parliament was hit three times and that people had been wounded.

A Turkish military commander said fighter jets had shot down a helicopter used by the coup plotters over Ankara. State-run Anadolu news agency said 17 police were killed at special forces headquarters there.

As the night wore on, momentum turned against the coup plotters. Crowds defied orders to stay indoors, gathering at major squares in Istanbul and Ankara, waving flags and chanting.

“We have a prime minister, we have a chief of command, we’re not going to leave this country to degenerates,” shouted one man, as groups of government supporters climbed onto a tank near Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.

Meanwhile, adhans, or Islamic calls to prayer, are recited in a lot of mosques in Istanbul, Ankara, and some other provinces.

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.

The United States however declared its firm backing for Erdogan’s government. Secretary of State John Kerry said he phoned the Turkish foreign minister and emphasised “absolute support for Turkey’s democratically elected, civilian government and democratic institutions”.

The coup began with warplanes and helicopters roaring over Ankara and troops moving in to seal off the bridges over the Bosphorus that link Europe and Asia in Istanbul.

Reuters reporters saw a helicopter open fire in Ankara. Anadolu said military helicopters had fired on the headquarters of the intelligence agency.

In the first hours of the coup attempt, airports were shut and access to internet social media sites was cut off.

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.

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.

Turkey has enjoyed an economic boom during his time in office and has dramatically expanded its influence across the region. But 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 secularism, 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.”

Meanwhile, a bomb attack against the Turkish Parliament in Ankara wounded several parliament officials and police officers early Saturday following a coup attempt on Friday.

Anadolu Agency's correspondent at the scene reported that some glasses in the parliament's lobby were broken.

One of the bombs hit the parliament's entrance door located in the main building.

In another development, the President of the Council of Europe rejected a military coup attempt in Turkey late Friday.

“Any attempt to overthrow the democratically elected leaders in a member state of the Council of Europe is unacceptable,” Thorbjorn Jagland said on his Twitter account.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, called for calm and restraint in Turkey.

In a written statement on Saturday, Stoltenberg said he spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“I call for calm and restraint, and full respect for Turkey's democratic institutions and its constitution. Turkey is a valued NATO Ally,” he said.

German government also reacted against the late night attempt to topple the Turkish government.

“Turkish democracy should be respected,” Steffen Seibert, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s spokesman, said via Twitter message.

He said Berlin supports the democratically elected government in Turkey.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called for restraint and respect for democratic institutions in Turkey following the attempt.

Newly appointed British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson also voiced concern via Twitter and urged Britons in Turkey to follow the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office's advice.



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