Turkish PM Says Coup Thwarted, Estimated 265 Killed
Some of the numbers in this piece have been updated by AlterNet as more information has become available.
At least two bombs hit the Turkish parliament and explosions were heard on Taksim Square and at Istanbul's Ataturk airport as Turkey erupted in protests after an attempted coup by a military faction.
While the Turkish government claimed that they have regained control of the situation, the gains of the military have not been confirmed. President Recept Tayyip Erdogan said in a press conference from Ataturk airport that the attempted coup was "an action of treason and they will have to pay heavily for."
754 members of Turkey's armed forces have been detained said the Ministry of Justice, on Saturday morning, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.
At least 265 were killed during the incident, with 42 killed in Ankarra according to Hurriyet Daily News.
"The situation is pretty good, from this moment the police is in control of Istanbul," said Turkey's head of national police according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.
Turkey Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced that his government appointed 1st Army Commander General Ãœmit DÃ¼ndar as the acting Chief of Staff to replacing General Hulusi Akar, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
The prosecutor said that the situation around the country has "solved itself," reported Anadolu Agency, but that some clashes in the capital Ankara are continuing.
Protesters heeded Erdogan's call to rally in the streets in support of his government, and videos circulated on social media of supposed junta-linked military figures firing at protesters.
The toll of the fire on the Bosporus bridge in Istanbul and at parliament in Ankara is not yet clear, but T24 reported that the ruling AK Party's official publicist was killed, and AP reported that 17 special operation officers were killed in clashes with the army outside of the capital of Ankara. A dozen were reportedly injured from the attack on parliament and at least 100 in total from the clashes.
President Erdogan, who was vacationing in the south, spoke earlier to CNN Turk by Facetime saying that he is still in power and accusing the loyalists of Fethullah Gulen, a rival cleric self-exiled in Pennsylvania, of plotting the coup. He later said he will restore order within the divided army and added that he has already issued arrest warrants against the plotters, whom he called "pirates." Speaking hours later at the Ataturk airport, Erdogan said that his resort in the south was bombed.
The commander of Turkey's military special forces said the coup plotters were only a small faction and that "those who are attempting a coup will not succeed." Orders came for soldiers to retreat from their positions, which included the Ataturk airport in Istanbul and both bridges crossing the Bosporus strait. The state-run Anadolu Agency also reported that police arrested several soldiers accused of being associated with the coup.
Opposition parties released statements saying that they did not support the coup, and parliament called an emergency meeting.
Pro-Kurdish political party, HDP condemned the coup in a statement. "The HDP, under any circumstances, in principle, opposes any kind of coup. Turkey urgently needs a pluralistic democracy and complete freedom."
Rumors are circulating of a staged coup, considering how poorly it was executed, to justify Erdogan's tougher grip on power.
Gulen is the founder of what has been called a moderate Islamic movement with schools around the world and a stated commitment to defending human rights. Previously an ally of Erdogan, his relations with the president turned sour, and his supporters in the police published recordings of corruption in his administration in 2014. Erdogan then announced a massive "witch hunt" against Gulen's "parallel structure," taking over his media organization and arresting dozens.
The junta said earlier in an email that they had taken control over the government:
"Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and general security that was damaged," they said.
"All international agreements are still valid. We hope that all of our good relationships with all countries will continue."
The state-run Anadolu news agency said the chief of Turkey's military staff was among people taken "hostage" in Ankara but was later released. Erdogan said that he does not know about his current status. CNN Turk also reported that hostages were being held at the military headquarters.
Gunshots were heard throughout the night on Friday, with military jets and helicopters seen flying and opening fire overhead. F16 jets shot down one of the helicopters, reported the Anadolu Agency. Tanks also blocked access to the bridge, lined up at the presidential palace and fired near the parliament building, reported Reuters. Photos circulated social media of protesters climbing on and turning back the tanks.
Mosques used their loudspeakers to blast, "We lay claim to our country." Some are reportedly announcing the call to prayer early and non-stop.
"Some people illegally undertook an illegal action outside of the chain of command," Yildirim said in comments broadcast by private channel NTV shortly after shots were first heard. State media also reported that only a faction of the military was involved and that it was only an attempted coup.
"The government elected by the people remains in charge. This government will only go when the people say so."
CNN Turk reported that the army surrounded the ruling AK Party headquarters in Istanbul, and other reports said that shots were fired at both the police headquarters in Ankara and at the MIT intelligence headquarters. Soldiers were also deployed to Taksim Square, where Erdogan supporters gathered, chanting slogans against the coup.
A Turkish official who did not want to be named said soldiers had been deployed in other cities in Turkey, but did not specify which ones. Junta-associated soldiers took over the offices of state-owned TRT, CNN Turk, Hurriyet and Dogan News Agency. They had TRT read a statement, which they said was written by the military, that a curfew has been declared across the country and that martial law has been imposed. They then went off the air but are now back on.
Turkey Blocks, an internet monitoring group, told Reuters that access to Twitter, Youtube and Facebook has been restricted.
Turkey has a long history of military coups but has not seen one in 36 years. The military has been kept secular and maintained its autonomy under Erdogan.
In 2008, the government accused a clandestine secularist group called Ergenekon of staging an attempted coup, resulting in the trial of hundreds of military officials, journalists and lawmakers. The cases were recently overturned because of lack of evidence.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that, "I call for calm and restraint, and full respect for Turkey’s democratic institutions and its constitution. ...Turkey is a valued NATO ally." Turkey has NATO's second-largest military force.
U.S. President Barack Obama also issued a statement, saying he "agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected Government of Turkey, show restraint, and avoid any violence or bloodshed."