Erdogan urges Turks: Stay on the streets

2016-07-16 16:11
A handout photo released by the Turkish Presidential press office shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) at the scene of the attack on Atatürk Airport in Istanbul on Saturday.

A handout photo released by the Turkish Presidential press office shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) at the scene of the attack on Atatürk Airport in Istanbul on Saturday. (Murat Cetin Muhurdar, Turkish Presidential Press O)

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WATCH: What we know about Turkey's attempted coup

2016-07-16 11:36

An attempted military coup started in Turkey on Friday night. Watch to find out what we know so far. WATCH

Ankara - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Turks to remain on the streets on Saturday, as his forces regained control after a spectacular coup bid by discontented soldiers that claimed more than 250 lives.

After hours of chaos and violence unseen in decades, Erdogan ended uncertainty over his whereabouts, flying into Istanbul airport in the early hours where he was cheered by hundreds of supporters.

"The situation is completely under control," Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said outside his Ankara offices, flanked by Turkey's top general.

Erdogan used his Twitter feed to urge people onto the streets, warning against a new flare-up after the most dramatic challenge to his 13 years of dominant rule.

"We should keep on owning the streets tonight no matter at what stage (the coup attempt is) because a new flare-up could take place at any moment," he said.

Dramatic night

Soldiers and tanks took to the streets late on Friday and multiple explosions rang out throughout the night in Ankara and Istanbul, the two biggest cities of the strategic Nato member of 80 million people.

Describing the attempted coup as a "black stain" on Turkey's democracy, Yildirim said that 161 people had been killed in the night of violence and 1 440 wounded.

This did not appear to include 104 rebel soldiers killed overnight, in a toll given by the military.

Turkey's state-run news agency says some 200 unarmed soldiers have left Turkey's military headquarters in the capital Ankara and have surrendered to police.

As the dust settled on a dramatic and chaotic night, TV pictures on Saturday showed extensive damage to the parliament building in Ankara that was bombed by rebel jets.

Crowds of flag-waving supporters of Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) appeared to have turned the tide, defying orders of a curfew and marching out onto the streets to block the attempt to overthrow the regime.

Yildirim said the putsch bid had fallen apart as nearly 3 000 soldiers suspected in involvement were detained.

The strongman denounced the coup attempt as "treachery", saying he was carrying out his functions and would keep on working "to the end".

"What is being perpetrated is a treason and a rebellion. They will pay a heavy price for this act of treason," Erdogan said at the airport. "We will not leave our country to occupiers."

Angry crowds

Erdogan's critics have long accused him of undermining modern Turkey's secular roots and of sliding into authoritarianism - but the president was believed to have won control of the military after purging elements who opposed him.

Erdogan immediately pinned the blame on "the parallel state" and "Pennsylvania" - a reference to Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, his arch-enemy whom he has always accused of seeking to overthrow him.

But the president's former ally "categorically" denied any involvement in the plot, calling the accusation "insulting".

Yildirim took aim at the US for hosting what he called "the leader of a terrorist organisation".

"Whichever country is behind him is not a friend of Turkey and in a serious war against Turkey," he added.

After the night's fast-moving events, Turkey's parliament held an extraordinary session, broadcast live on television, while special forces were reportedly securing the headquarters of the military chief of staff.

Dozens of soldiers backing the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus bridge in Istanbul they had held throughout the night, holding their hands above their heads as they were detained, television pictures showed.

There was chaos in Istanbul as angry crowds took to the streets to boo the passing tanks, with smaller numbers welcoming the troops.

"The people are afraid of a military government," a 38-year-old man who gave his name as Dogan told AFP. "Most of them have been in military service, they know what a military government would mean."

Read more on:    turkey  |  security

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