Posted on July 16, 2016 by Editorial Staff in 1 Top News, Turkey
ISTANBUL,— President Recep Tayyip Erdogan battled to regain control over Turkey Saturday after acoup bid by discontented soldiers, as signs grew that the most serious challenge to his 13 years of dominant rule was faltering.
After hours of chaos and violence unseen in decades, Erdogan ended uncertainty over his whereabouts, flying into Istanbul airport in the early hours and making a defiant speech cheered by hundreds of supporters.
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.
In Istanbul, a defiant Erdogan addressed crowds in the city, telling them that the coup had been quashed.
“The government is in control,” he told supporters as they chanted his name.
“Fifty percent of the people elected the President and that President is on duty,” he said.
“My brothers, I want you to know this: Those who brought these tanks out — what happened to these tanks? My people took these tanks back, haven’t they? So far as we believe, so far as we’re alive, we’ll be prepared to die in the cause to tackle these people. But we will stand firm, we’re not going to compromise.”
Over 1,500 arrested, 90 killed, 1,150 injured in Turkish coup attempt
After a night of drama and bloodshed, at least 90 people had died and more than 1,150 people were wounded, according to state-run news agency Andalou.
Officials insisted the putsch bid was falling apart with over 1,560 officers held and close to 200 unarmed soldiers at the Turkish military HQ surrendering.
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.
Turkey’s parliament, which had been targeted by coup plotters and received extensive damage, was meanwhile holding 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.
As a helicopter flew over the famed Taksim Square, scene of massive anti-Erdogan protests three years ago, the crowd began to boo, shaking their fists at the night sky before they were shot at by the soldiers.
“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.”
The sound of F16 fighter jets screaming low over the capital Ankara signalled the start of the putsch late Friday, with troops also moving to block the two bridges across the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul.
As protesters took to the streets, an AFP photographer saw troops open fire on people gathered near one of the bridges, leaving dozens wounded.
Soldiers also shot at protesters angrily denouncing the coup bid at Istanbul’s Taksim Square, injuring several.
Turkish army F-16s launched air strikes against tanks stationed by coup backers outside the presidential palace in Ankara, while the parliament was also bombed, leaving its offices wrecked.
Regular explosions could be heard from the AFP office situated near the complex.
World leaders called for calm, with US President Barack Obama and other Western countries urging support for the government they said had been democratically elected.
The attempted coup brought new instability to the Middle East region, with Turkey a key powerbroker in the ongoing Syria conflict.
In a key moment in the standoff, Turkish security forces rescued the country’s top army general Hulusi Akar who had reportedly been taken hostage in the earlier stages of the coup bid.
Istanbul authorities sought to make a show of normalisation with the bridges reopening to traffic and Ataturk International Airport — which had been shut down by the plotters — gradually reopening.
Coup bid ‘to restore order’
After the initial dramatic military movements, state broadcaster TRT said the troops behind the putsch had declared martial law and a curfew, in a statement signed by a group calling itself the “Council for Peace in the Homeland”.
It said the coup had been launched “to ensure and restore constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms and let the supremacy of the law in the country prevail, to restore order which was disrupted”.
No named military officer claimed responsibility for the actions although Prime Minister Binali Yildirim claimed a key pro-coup general had been killed.
Turkey’s once-powerful military has long considered itself the guardian of the secular state founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923.
It has staged three coups since 1960 and forced out an Islamic government in 1997.
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 came to power in 2003
Erdogan is the co-founder of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). He was elected Prime Minister in 2003. Under his rule, Turkey became a powerhouse in the Middle East. His reign came to an end in 2014, and his own party’s rules prevented him from seeking a fourth term.
So, he ran for president — and won. Before this, the president of Turkey was a largely ceremonial role, but Erdogan tried to change that by altering the constitution to give him more power.
Under Erdogan, who is extremely conservative, religion had started to play a more important role in Turkey, which is a largely secular country. He was active in Islamist circles in the 1970s and 1980s.