Coup ‘mastermind’ Gulen’s organisation has ‘infiltrated’ India: Turkey – Times of India

ANKARA: Turkey’s president declared he is 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 left dozens dead.

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

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.

Gen Umit Dundar, the newly appointed acting chief of the general staff, said more than 190 people died in clashes: 41 police officers, two soldiers, 47 civilians and 104 people described as “coup plotters.”

Dundar said officers from the Air Force, the military police and the armored units were mainly involved in the attempt.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 2,839 soldiers were detained on suspicion of involvement in the coup attempt.

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 per cent 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.”

Military chief of staff Gen 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.

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.

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.

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.

Smart phone address

In a night that sometimes verged on the bizarre, Erdogan used social media to speak to the Turkish people – even though he is an avowed enemy of such technology when his opponents use it, frequently targetting Twitter and Facebook.

At one point Erdogan effectively addressed the nation via a video calling service, appearing on the smart phone of a CNN Turk reporter who held it up to a studio camera so that viewers to the network could see him.

Gunfire and explosions had rocked both Istanbul and 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. However, by dawn the noise of fighting had died down considerably.

Around 50 soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on one of the bridges across the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul after dawn on Saturday, abandoning their tanks with their hands raised in the air. Reuters witnesses saw government supporters attack the pro-coup soldiers who had surrendered.

Earlier, around 30 pro-coup soldiers had surrendered 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.

Lawmakers in hiding

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

Authorities had shut the strait to tanker traffic, shipping agent GAC said.

In the early hours of Saturday, lawmakers were hiding in shelters inside the parliament building, which was being 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 senior Turkish official said later on Saturday attacks on the parliament had “largely stopped”.

A Turkish military commander also 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.

Momentum turned against the coup plotters as the night wore on. 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 Ataturk airport.

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.

US 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”.

European Council President Donald Tusk called for a swift return to Turkey’s constitutional order, saying tensions there could not be resolved by guns.

Flights resume

Flag carrier Turkish Airways resumed flights on Saturday, Erdogan said. Malaysia Airports, the operator of Sabiha Gokcen International Airport, Istanbul’s second airport, said it would continue to process flights in and out of Turkey.

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 pro-coup faction that accused the government of eroding the democratic and secular rule of law. Turkey would be run by a “peace council” that would ensure the safety of the population, the statement said.

TRT went off the air shortly afterwards. It resumed broadcasting in the early hours of Saturday.

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

Turkey is one of the main backers of opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country’s civil war, host to 2.7 million Syrian refugees and launchpad last year for the biggest influx of migrants to Europe since World War Two.

Celebratory gunfire erupted in Syria’s capital Damascus after the army claimed to have toppled Erdogan. People took to the streets to celebrate there and in other government-held cities.

Turkey has suffered numerous bombings and shootings this year, including an attack two weeks ago by Islamists at Ataturk airport that killed more than 40 people, as well as those staged by Kurdish militants.

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. However, 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.


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