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President Erdogan says he's back in charge after coup attempt

Thousands of soldiers have been arrested, at least 265 people are dead, and president Erdogan said the military plotters will "pay the highest price."

by Tess Owen
Jul 16 2016, 12:10pm

Civilians cheer next to a surrendered Turkish Army tank on Istanbul's Bosphorus Bridge on Saturday morning, after a coup attempt that appears to have failed. (Photo by stringer/EPA)

President Recep Tayyip Erodogan is insisting that the Turkish government has regained control over the country following Friday's coup attempt by military "traitors." The night of violence concentrated in Ankara and Istanbul left 265 dead —161 civilians and pro-government forces and 104 pro-coup plotters — and more than 1,000 injured.

Prime Minister Benali Yildirim said 2,839 military personnel have been detained in connection with the attempted coup. Yildirim also said on Saturday that the government is considering whether to reinstate the death penalty for those behind the uprising. Turkey abolished it more than a decade ago.

Addressing his supporters early on Saturday, after returning to Istanbul as his supporters responded to his earlier call to go in the streets to stop the plotters, Erdogan described Friday's coup attempt as an "act of treason" and vowed to punish those involved. "They will pay a heavy price for this," said Erdogan."This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army."

Related: Turkish president returns to Istanbul to face down attempted military coup

Gunfire and explosions were heard across Ankara and Istanbul on Friday night and in the early hours of Saturday morning. But by Saturday, an air of mostly calm seemed to have fallen across the cities. The two bridges over the Bosphorus connecting Istanbul's European and Asian sides, where Friday's coup began when tanks blocked them, have reportedly reopened. Bulgaria has reopened its land borders with Turkey.

There have reportedly been mass surrenders in Istanbul, and about 50 pro-coup soldiers abandoned their tanks on Bosphorus Bridge with their hands raised.

Foreign governments and organizations such as the UK, Azerbaijan, Iran, Spain and NATO — of which Turkey is one of the largest members — have saluted the defeat of the coup.

Just hours ago, Turkish lawmakers were still sheltering inside the parliament building which was under assault by tanks.

Although the violence seems to have simmered down, there are ongoing incidents which suggest the coup isn't entirely over. Reuters reports that pro-coup soldiers have taken over a warship and have taken the chief of the Turkish Navy hostage at the Golcuk naval base.

Turkey's minister for European Union relations Omer Celik said the situation i "90 percent under control", but some military commanders are still being held hostage by pro-coup officers.

Related: Everything we know so far about the coup attempt in Turkey

Erdogan has accused followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish Muslim cleric who lives in exile in the US, of orchestrating the coup. The government accuses Gulen of trying to create a "parallel structure" in the police, judiciary, media and armed forces, aimed at taking over the state.

Gulen denies the charge and also denied he was in any way involved with the coup attempt.

"I condemn, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey," Gulen said in a statement. "As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations."

US Secretary of State John Kerry has reportedly offered the Turkish government help investigating the coup. AFP reports that Kerry is urging Erdogan to present evidence which would justify demands for Gulen's extradition to Turkey.

Movement in and out of Turkey still isn't normal, although the Ataturk airport in Istanbul, the country's biggest, is open.

According to the Guardian, the Association of British Travel Agents said there are 50,000 Britons currently on holiday in Turkey, and have warned that the situation remains "fluid." UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said he remains "very concerned' about the situation. British Airways has canceled all flights in and out of Turkey. AP reports that Georgia has closed its border with Turkey.

Turkey's Incirlik Air Base – which is used by the US-led coalition to fight the Islamic State, and where several US warplanes and military personnel are based – has been sealed and the power has been cut off, the US consulate said on Saturday. "Be advised that local authorities are denying onto and off Incirlik Air Base," the consulate wrote in a statement. "Please avoid the air base until normal operations have been restored."

Greek authorities have arrested eight men who landed in the northern city of Alexandroupolis on Saturday in a Turkish military helicopter. It is unclear whether the men were involved in the coup. They are reportedly seeking asylum.

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.

Reuters contributed to this story.

Follow Tess Owen on Twitter: @Misstessowen