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Turkish president returns to Istanbul to face down attempted military coup

After a faction of Turkey's military attempted to overthrow the government, protestors took to the streets and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed the plotters would "pay a very heavy price."
Un char non loin de l'aéroport Ataturk. (Photo par Defne Karadeniz/Getty Images)

A faction within Turkey's military attempted to overthrow the country's government Friday night, though as the sun rose over the country on Saturday morning, every indication was that the revolt had been unsuccessful.

All of the country's main political parties rejected the coup, and thousands of supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took to the streets to protest before Erdogan returned to Istanbul in the early hours Saturday morning and addressed the country on live television.


Early in the evening, the military faction released a statement saying it had seized control of the country and imposed martial law to "reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law is once again reigns in the country, for the law and order to be reinstated."

The statement also said that "all international agreements and commitments will remain" in place. "We will pledge that good relations with all world countries will continue."

These people heeded Erdogan's call to protest. In Taksim Square Istanbul — Jared Malsin (@jmalsin)July 15, 2016

Social media images, however, showed the Turkish military plotters firing on protesters trying to cross Istanbul's Bosphorus bridge.

Bo?aziçi Köprüsü'nde askerin ate? etti?i görüntüler payla??ld?. @yavuzselimgunes
— 140journos (@140journos) July 15, 2016

Photos also showed soldiers being arrested by police.

Game over ????????— Carol Malouf (@carolmalouf)July 15, 2016

Erdogan, who has ruled the country since 2003, appeared on CNN's sister network in Turkey speaking remotely via FaceTime, calling for citizens to take to the streets.

"I urge the Turkish people to convene at public squares and airports," Erdogan said. "There is no power higher than the power of the people."

Erdogan's supporters indeed took to the streets in large numbers in both Ankara and Istanbul, protesting the revolt. Videos and photos showed protestors blocking the paths of tanks and standing down soldiers.


Hours after his initial address, Erdogan, who confirmed he had been in the Mediterranean resort town of Marmaris when the coup was launched, landed at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, where he was greeted by a crowd of supporters. He then addressed the country on live TV shortly after 4am local time, saying that the "uprising is an act of treason."

"This is betrayal, this is a rebellion movement," he said. "And at the price of betraying the homeland they will have to pay a very heavy price. Let me tell you this in advance: This is a government that came to power with the nation's votes, and this will be the end for them…. It's a gift of god. It will be an occasion for the cleanup of the Turkish military."

He also claimed that the hotel in which he had been staying in Marmaris had been bombed after he left.

Erdogan speaking to the country on FaceTime.

By about 5am local time, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 130 soldiers had been arrested and a general involved in the coup had been killed. In Istanbul, civilians were reportedly beating soldiers arrested by the police. The prosecutor's office in Ankara, meanwhile, reported that 42 people were dead in the fighting.

Multiple explosions were reported at the Turkish parliament. Opposition party member Mehmet Bekaroglu tweeted a photo of him and several other people in a bunker underneath the building.

TBMM s???na??nday?z; 10 dakika oldu bomba sesi yok… — Mehmet Bekaro?lu (@MBekaroglu)July 16, 2016


Earlier in the night, Yildirim had said that state security forces had been called in to "do what is necessary."

"Some people illegally undertook an illegal action outside of the chain of command," Yildirim said in comments broadcast by private television channel NTV.

"The government elected by the people remains in charge," he said. "This government will only go when the people say so."

BREAKING: 17 Turkish officers reportedly killed in helicopter attack on police special forces headquarters on outskirts of Ankara.

— The Associated Press (@AP)July 15, 2016

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency said the chief of Turkey's military staff had been taken "hostage" in the capital Ankara. CNN's Turkey affiliate also reported that hostages were being held at the military headquarters, according to Reuters. The CNN affiliate was later shut down by members of the military while broadcasting live, but was back on the air by about 4:30am local time.

Turkey's Dogan News Agency showed footage of cars and buses being diverted on the main bridges in Istanbul, and a group of soldiers lined up at the entrance to one bridge. The Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge linking the European and Asian parts of the country have been shut down.

Noah Blaser, a freelance journalist in Istanbul, told VICE News that army units supporting the coup were at one point "in a standoff" with the police in Taksim Square in the heart of the city.


Turkey's state television network was "broadcasting statements from government officials critical of the coup," Blaser said.

The Dogan News Agency reported that the national police directorate had summoned all police to duty in Ankara. A Turkish official who did not want to be named told Reuters that soldiers had been deployed in other cities in Turkey, but did not specify which ones.

Video posted on social media showed soldiers in Istanbul telling civilians that a curfew has been imposed and ordering them to go home.

Video from Istanbul bridge. Soldiers shout at passing cars "There is curfew, everybody go home."
— Gilgo (@agirecudi) July 15, 2016

Access to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube had reportedly been blocked. Flights into Istanbul airport were still landing, according to tracking website All outgoing flights had been cancelled, though Erdogan said during a news conference at about 6:30am local time that "airports will be open soon."

Other video footage from Istanbul showed military jets flying low over the city.

Ankara'daki jetler
— Hazal Koptagel (@HazalKoptagel) July 15, 2016

Another video showed what appeared to be a military helicopter flying over Istanbul, reportedly firing on the headquarters of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization.

Helikopterden ate? aç?l?yor canl?
— ?rden ? (@Havrekhshaeta) July 15, 2016


A post on Twitter showed an alleged explosion in the capital, Ankara, after fighter jets flew over the city.

Explosion seen in #Ankara as jets fly over the city
— Michael Horowitz (@michaelh992) July 15, 2016

In a statement, the White House said that President Barack Obama spoke to US Secretary of State John Kerry Friday night about the situation in Turkey, a crucial ally in the fight against the Islamic State and a fellow member of NATO.

"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 statement read. "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."

Turkey experienced military coups in 1960, 1971, and 1980. A new constitution was approved in 1983, but a dispute over the role of religion, which also prompted the 1960 government overthrow, led to a so-called "postmodern" coup in 1995. Rather than taking rule by force, military generals influenced policy changes behind the scenes, eventually forcing Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan to resign.

Erdogan again addressed the country at about 6:30am local time Saturday morning. "We will stand strong, we will not give in," he said. At about the same time, soldiers who had been blocking the bridges appeared to be surrendering en masse and being arrested. The president added that airports would be opened soon.

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