Turkey’s president Recep Tayyap Erdogan was on a vacation at the Aegean coast when he was informed about the attempted coup taking place in Ankara. The failed coup had started about 7:30 pm on Friday. The military plotters had sent out tanks to close two bridges in Istanbul that linked Europe with Asia. Erdogan asked his supporters to protest against the coup. “Turkey has a democratically elected government and president. We are in charge and we will continue exercising our powers until the end. We will not abandon our country to these invaders. It will end well,” Erdogan said.
Thousands of people took to the streets and within hours, reports of gunfire and casualties were heard all over Ankara, Istanbul and other cities. The battle between the dissidents and pro-government supporters continued through Friday night. Erdogan could not come to Ankara as the skies were dominated by enemy warplanes.
What followed overnight were a series of chaotic unrest across major cities that left over 256 dead.
On Saturday, Erdogan arrived at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport and addressed the crowds gathered there and told them that the coup plotters attempted to murder him by bombing the hotel where he was staying, but only after he had left. Erdogan said: “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.”
By 12:30 pm Saturday, the attempted coup had been contained. Prime minister Benali Yildirim described the night as “dark stain for Turkish democracy.”
Around 2,839 accused coup supporters, mainly air force officers, the military police and armoured units have been arrested. The government also dismissed 2,745 judges across Turkey. Two constitutional court judges were also detained over their alleged role in the coup attempt.
Scenes of pro-government supporters pulling out military men from tanks and beating them were also flashed on television channel. Alleged beheading of a Turkish soldier by pro-government mob in Istanbul was also reported. Abandoned tanks could be seen on the streets of Istanbul and other cities. Damaged buildings stand witness to the overnight coup attempt. By late afternoon Saturday, national carriers had started to fly to and fro from the Istanbul airport.
By 11 pm, thousands gathered in Ankara’s Kizilav Square in support of Erdogan. Crowds waving Turkish flags chanted “martyrs are immortal, our land cannot be divided!” In Istanbul, protesters waving flags gathered in Taksim Square. The group also staged a march towards the central Istiklal Avenue.
Turkey has alleged the US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen for the failed coup. The government has asked US to extradite Gulen to face charges in Turkey. However, Gulen has denied the accusation and said that he would not have come to Turkey even if the coup had been a success.
US has agreed to consider Turkey’s request but wants to see the legal evidence of his wrongdoings first.
Inputs from agencies