Ankara: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the nation on Saturday that his government is in charge after a coup attempt brought a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire across the capital that left dozens dead and at least 150 people wounded.
Government officials said the coup appeared to have failed as Turks took to the streets overnight to confront troops attempting to take over the country. However, the sounds of huge blasts, including at least one bomb that hit the parliament complex, continued to echo across the capital, Ankara, and Istanbul throughout the morning.
Addressing a crowd of supporters outside Istanbul Ataturk Airport on Saturday morning, Erdogan told a crowd assembled there: “They have pointed the people’s guns against the people. The president, whom 52 percent 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.”
Justice minister Bekir Bozdag said security forces have defeated coup plotters in several places, including police and government buildings, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
“There is no where they have they have proper control,” Bozdag said. “God willing, they will be defeated in the remaining areas and those in the air will be brought down.”
It was not clear who was in control of the military headquarters and Erdogan had not left the airport as dawn broke. Earlier, Erdogan said the government was arresting coup supporters in the military and warned “they will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey,” according to a transcript of his remarks provided by his office. “Those who stain the military’s reputation must leave. The process has started today, and it will continue just as we fight other terrorist groups.”
An official in the president’s office says at least 60 people have been killed and more than 330 people have been arrested. The official spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
In images broadcast on CNN-Turk, dozens of soldiers walked among tanks with their hand held up, surrendering to government forces on Istanbul’s Bosporus Bridge. Discarded gear was strewn on the ground. People, some holding flags, climbed onto the tanks.
Anadolu Agency reported that 754 members of Turkey’s Armed Forces have been detained across the country.
Erdogan, who said his general secretary had been abducted by the coup plotters, flew into Ataturk airport early Saturday and was greeted by large crowds. Hours earlier, as the coup attempt got underway, his office declined to say where he was, and he was forced to give an interview over FaceTime to a television station. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has called all legislators for an emergency meeting Saturday, Anadolu reported.
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.
US President Barack Obama urged all sides in Turkey to support the democratically elected government. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and called for respect for democracy.