A Turkish military group claimed it had taken control of Turkey’s government Friday evening, but by Saturday morning, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim alleged the coup attempt had been foiled.
However, the military group retained control of some strategic locations in the capital Ankara Saturday morning where fighting continued.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport early Saturday morning after the government regained control of the site, and large crowds greeted him there.
“The coup attempt is foiled,” Turkey’s national intelligence agency said, according to Al Jazeera.
A senior Turk official also told the Associated Press the attempted coup had been repelled. The unnamed source said government officials remained in command of their offices.
Early Saturday morning CNN reported soldiers who occupied tanks on the Bosphorus Bridge were seen emerging with their hands raised.
At least 60 people are reported dead in the attempted overnight uprising, and 754 members of the armed forces have been detained in connection with the attempted coup, reported the state news agency Anadolu.
Before he arrived in Istanbul, Erdogan, using his iPhone, appeared on Facetime Friday evening and insisted to Turkey, “I am president.”
“This country can’t be managed from Pennsylvania,” Erdogan said, linking the coup attempt to U.S.-based exiled imam Fethullah Gülen. (Gülen has links to the Clintons, according to the Daily Caller.)
Erdogan, who accused the coup plotters of “treason,” had called on Turkish people to enter the streets and take them back.
“There is no power higher than the power of the people,” he said. “Let them do what they will at public squares and airports.”
As the coup attempt unfolded on Friday night, a lawyer for the Turkish government, Robert Amsterdam, said “there are indications of direct involvement” of Gülenists. According to Turkish intelligence sources, Amsterdam said: “There are signs that Gülen is working closely with certain members of military leadership against the elected civilian government.”
Gülen’s group, the Alliance for Shared Values, was quick to deny it, issuing a statement saying comments alleging the group’s involvement in the coup were “highly irresponsible” and that the group did not support the military intervention.
Erdogan said he will address “those in Pennsylvania” – by which he meant cleric Fethullah Gülen and his supporters – accusing them of betraying the nation and challenging them to come back to Turkey if they had the courage.
The White House issued the following statement Friday evening: “The president spoke tonight by phone with Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the events in Turkey. The president and secretary agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically elected government of Turkey, show restraint, and avoid any violence or bloodshed. The secretary underscored that the State Department will continue to focus on the safety and security of U.S. citizens in Turkey. The president asked the secretary to continue to keep him updated as the situation unfolds.”
Kerry later released the following statement: “The United States views with gravest concern events unfolding in Turkey. We are monitoring a very fluid situation. I spoke this evening to Foreign Minister Cavusoglu and emphasized the United States’ absolute support for Turkey’s democratically elected, civilian government and democratic institutions. We urge all parties to ensure the safety and well-being of diplomatic missions and personnel and civilians throughout Turkey. Our Embassy and Consulates in Turkey continue to provide updates to U.S. citizens in Turkey. U.S. citizens should shelter in place and stay indoors; and update family and friends of status when possible.”
The army group responsible for the coup attempt accused Erdogan’s government of undermining the rule of law.
Seventeen police officers were reportedly killed by a military helicopter. Anadolu Agency, a state-run press agency, said the Turkish parliament in Ankara was hit with a bomb. Tanks reportedly opened fire near the parliament building. Yildirim ordered the “annihilation” of military planes used by coup plotters.
Traffic came to a halt and was blocked from crossing the Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridges in Istanbul. Gunshots were reported in Ankara and outside Istanbul police headquarters, which was reportedly razed to the ground.
The BBC reported that tanks were spotted outside Istanbul airport on Friday and all flights were canceled.
Footage of the coup was apparently being livestreamed on Twitter. Reports indicate some social media sites were blocked.
Members of the coup reportedly took control of CNN’s sister station, CNN Turk, in Istanbul. They also took over Hurriyet, Turkey’s influential newspaper.
Martial law was imposed across the country, and a curfew was put in place. Earlier in the evening Friday, an announcer on Turkish state broadcaster TRT read a statement from the military declaring that the nation was being run by a “peace council” that wouldn’t allow a breakdown in public order.
“The announcer said the democratic and secular rule of law had been eroded by the current government and that a new constitution would be prepared soon,” Reuters reported. “Freedom of citizens was guaranteed by the ‘peace council,’ regardless of religion, race or language, the announcer said.”
However, the Daily Mail reported, “Turkish troops have opened fire on civilians attempting to cross the river Bosporus in Istanbul in protest to the military coup.”
Helicopters reportedly fired on Ankara, and troops set up checkpoints in cities across Turkey. Witnesses said the troops rounded up police who remained loyal to the government. A European Union source told Reuters the attempted coup was “well orchestrated” and involved a “substantial” portion of the military, “not just a few colonels.”
“They control several strategic points in Istanbul. Given the scale of the operation, it is difficult to imagine they will stop short of prevailing,” the source said at the time.
Erdogan has ruled the country since 2003. His AK Party is rooted in Islam and has had a tenuous relationship with the military in a state founded on secularist principles.
The military group released a statement on NTV television Friday evening saying, “The power in the country has been seized in its entirety.”
Erdogan then released his own statement:
“Turkey’s democratically elected president and government are in power. We will not tolerate attempts to undermine our democracy. The illegal statement is being made by the Council for Peace in the Homeland – not the Turkish Armed Forces. … The president is Turkey’s commander in chief. The Turkish people, regardless of their political affiliation, will stand against this blatant attack against our democracy. We welcome the commitment of opposition parties, which expressed their objections to the coup attempt, to democracy.”
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildrim spoke to NTV television by phone, telling the station early in the evening: “We will not allow this attempt. Those who are in this illegal act will pay the highest price.”
Yildrim continued, “There was an illegal act by a group within the military that was acting out of the chain of military command. Our people should know that we will not allow any activity that would harm democracy.”
Meanwhile, Turkey’s currency has been reportedly plummeting, especially in the last two months, on concerns about a planned coup. The lira tanked to 2.9901 against the dollar.
Timothy Ghriskey, of Solaris Asset Management, told Bloomberg: “The financial markets react very quickly to headlines like these, and it’s all about reducing risk.”
Turkey’s army is the largest of the European NATO allies, and the nation has more arms than Germany, France and Great Britain put together.
In 2010, top army commanders were arrested for allegedly scheming to bomb mosques and overthrow Turkey’s government. In that year, at least 200 people – including officers in the military, lawyers and politicians – were detained and charged with attempting to promote chaos in Turkey and cause a crisis with Greece.
Two years later, in 2012, three former generals were given life sentences by a Turkish court after they plotted to overthrow the government. The sentences were later reduced to 20 years because their plans failed.