Chaos in Turkey as military attempts coup

By Updated at 2016-07-17 14:38:53 +0000

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ISTANBUL/ANKARA - Crowds in Turkey took to the streets to show their support for President Tayyip Erdogan after the military tried to take power. Erdogan is back in Istanbul and said that military officers were being arrested. At least 90 people were killed, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

An attempted Turkish military coup appeared to crumble in the early hours of Saturday after crowds answered President Tayyip Erdogan's call to take to the streets to support him.

Erdogan, who had been holidaying on the southwest coast when the coup was launched by a faction in the armed forces, flew into Istanbul before dawn on Saturday and was shown on TV appearing among a crowd of supporters outside Ataturk Airport.

The uprising was an "act of treason", and those responsible would pay a heavy price, he later told reporters at a hastily arranged news conference. Arrests of officers were under way, and it would go higher up the ranks, culminating in the cleansing of the military, he said.

A senior official said 42 people had been killed in the violence in Ankara alone, most of them civilians. More deaths were also reported in Istanbul.

Early on Saturday, Reuters journalists saw around 30 pro-coup soldiers surrender their weapons after being surrounded by armed police in Istanbul's central Taksim square.

They were taken away in police vans as a fighter jet repeatedly screeched overhead at low altitude, causing a boom that shook surrounding buildings and shattered windows.

Before returning to Istanbul, Erdogan appeared in a video call to the studio of the Turkish sister channel of CNN, where an announcer held up a mobile phone to the camera to show him. He called on Turks to take to the streets to defend his government and said the coup plotters would pay a heavy price.


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Turkish forces fight to crush coup remnants



Below is a timeline of breaking events in Turkey on Friday. All times in GMT, based on the times Reuters reported the events. Reuters does not vouch for events reported by other media.

2352 - Turkish PM says situation under control, blames Gulen movement, declares no-fly zone over Ankara. A U.S.-based organization close to Gulen earlier denied involvement.

2339 - Bomb hits parliament in Ankara, state-run Anadolu Agency says. Reuters witness hears blast in Istanbul.

2320 - Kerry says emphasized "absolute support for Turkey's democratically elected, civilian government and democratic institutions" in phone call with Turkish foreign minister.

2313 - Group close to U.S.-based cleric Gulen says accusations it was involved in coup attempt are "highly irresponsible". Condemns military intervention in Turkish politics, says concerned about safety of citizens.

2305 - President Obama says he and Secretary of State Kerry agree that all parties in Turkey should support elected government. Urges restraint, avoidance of bloodshed - White House statement.

2304 - State-run Anadolu Agency says 17 police killed at Ankara special forces HQ; no independent confirmation

2259 - Turkish fighter jet shoots down military helicopter used by coup-plotters over Ankara, broadcaster NTV says.

2251 - Commander of special forces says a group has engaged in treason, they will not succeed. Says military does not condone coup.

2247 - PM says gangs and illegal formations are behind coup attempt, and calls it a terrorist act. He says government remains in charge. Urges people to take to the streets.

2237 - Commander of Turkey's First Army, part of land forces responsible for Istanbul and other western areas, said those attempting a coup were a small faction and "nothing to worry about".

2226 - Two loud explosions heard in center of Turkish capital

2208 - Tanks surround Turkish parliament building, open fire. Gunfire heard at Istanbul airport.

2203 - Turkish justice minister says members of a movement loyal to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen in the army are behind the attempted coup. There has been no immediate comment from Gulen.

2151 - A military helicopter opens fire over the Turkish capital Ankara, witnesses report an explosion in the capital.

2135 - Turkish state broadcaster TRT goes off air.

2126 - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urges people to take to the streets to protest against what he describes as a coup attempt by a minority faction within the military. Speaking to a CNN Turk reporter via a cellphone video link he says it will meet a "necessary response". He says he is returning to the capital Ankara.

2122 - Turkish PM says on Twitter everything will be done to put down coup attempt, even if it means fatalities. Says sieges are under way at some important buildings, without specifying, but urges people to remain calm.

2118 - Presidential source says president and government are still in power.

2105 - Turkish state broadcaster says reading statement on the orders of the military - that new constitution will be prepared, accuses government of eroding democratic and secular rule of law, that the country is being run by a "peace council", that martial law imposed, curfew imposed across the country.

2102 - Head of Istanbul branch of Turkey's ruling AK Party says soldiers enter party building, told to go.

2058 - Soldiers are inside buildings of Turkish state broadcaster TRT in Ankara, TRT correspondent tells Reuters.

2057 - Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media restricted in Turkey, say internet monitoring groups.

2049 - Turkish presidential source says statement made on behalf of armed forces was not authorized by military command.

2047 - Turkish chief of military staff among hostages taken at military headquarters in Ankara, says state-run Anadolu agency.

2038 - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is safe, reports CNN Turk.

2025 - Turkish military says has taken power to protect democratic order. In a statement sent by email and reported on Turkish TV channels, the military says all of Turkey's existing foreign relations will be maintained.

2002 - Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says attempted coup under way, calls for calm. He says a group within Turkey's military has attempted to overthrow the government and security forces have been called in to "do what is necessary".

1950 - Gunshots are heard in Ankara, military jets and helicopters seen flying overhead. Helicopters seen overhead in Istanbul.

1929 - Istanbul's Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge are both closed. Dogan News Agency footage shows cars and buses being diverted.

LAWMAKERS IN HIDING

By the early hours of Saturday, lawmakers were still hiding in shelters inside the parliament building in Ankara, which was being fired on by tanks. Smoke rose up from nearby, Reuters witnesses said. An opposition MP told Reuters parliament was hit three times and that people had been wounded.

A Turkish military commander said fighter jets had shot down a helicopter used by the coup plotters over Ankara. State-run Anadolu news agency said 17 police were killed at special forces headquarters there.

Momentum turned against the coup plotters as the night wore on. Crowds defied orders to stay indoors, gathering at major squares in Istanbul and Ankara, waving flags and chanting.

"We have a prime minister, we have a chief of command, we're not going to leave this country to degenerates," shouted one man, as groups of government supporters climbed onto a tank near Ataturk airport.

Erdogan and other officials blamed the attempted coup on followers of Fethullah Gulen, an influential cleric in self-imposed exile in the United States who once supported Erdogan but became a nemesis.

The pro-Gulen Alliance for Shared Values said it condemned any military intervention in domestic politics.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he phoned the Turkish foreign minister and emphasised "absolute support for Turkey's democratically elected, civilian government and democratic institutions".

The coup began with warplanes and helicopters roaring over Ankara and troops moving in to seal off the bridges over the Bosphorus Strait that links Europe and Asia in Istanbul.

Authorities had shut the strait to tanker traffic, shipping agent GAC said.

Reuters reporters saw a helicopter open fire in Ankara. Anadolu said military helicopters had fired on the headquarters of the intelligence agency.

SOCIAL MEDIA CUT OFF

Airports were shut and access to internet social media sites was cut off in the first hours of the coup attempt.

Soldiers took control of TRT state television, which announced a countrywide curfew and martial law. An announcer read a statement on the orders of the military that accused the government of eroding the democratic and secular rule of law. Turkey would be run by a "peace council" that would ensure the safety of the population, the statement said.

TRT went off the air shortly afterwards. It resumed broadcasting in the early hours of Saturday.

Anadolu said the chief of Turkey's military staff was among people taken "hostage" in the capital Ankara but Prime Minister Yildirim later said he was back in control.

The coup had appeared strong early on Friday evening. A senior EU source monitoring the situation said: "It looks like a relatively well-orchestrated coup by a significant body of the military, not just a few colonels ... They control several strategic points in Istanbul."

One European diplomat was dining with the Turkish ambassador to a European capital when guests were interrupted by the pinging of urgent news on their mobile phones.

"This is clearly not some tinpot little coup. The Turkish ambassador was clearly shocked and is taking it very seriously," the diplomat told Reuters as the dinner party broke up. "However it looks in the morning, this will have massive implications for Turkey. This has not come out of nowhere."

Turkey, a NATO member with the second biggest military in the Western alliance, is one of the most important allies of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State militant group, which seized swaths of neighbouring Iraq and Syria.

The Pentagon said there was no impact on operations against Islamic State from the U.S. air base at Incirlik in Turkey.

Turkey is also one of the main backers of opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country's civil war, host to 2.7 million Syrian refugees and launchpad last year for the biggest influx of migrants to Europe since World War Two.

Celebratory gunfire erupted in Syria's capital Damascus after the army claimed to have toppled Erdogan. People took to the streets to celebrate there and in other government-held cities.

Turkey has been at war with Kurdish separatists and has suffered numerous bombing and shooting attacks this year, including an attack two weeks ago by Islamists at Ataturk airport that killed more than 40 people.

After serving as prime minister from 2003, Erdogan was elected president in 2014 with plans to alter the constitution to give the previously ceremonial presidency far greater executive powers.

Turkey has enjoyed an economic boom during his time in office and has dramatically expanded its influence across the region. However, opponents say his rule has become increasingly authoritarian.

His AK Party, with roots in Islamism, has long had a strained relationship with the military and nationalists in a state that was founded on secularist principles after World War One. The military has a history of mounting coups to defend secularism, but has not seized power directly since 1980.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Ayla Jean Yackley, Nick Tattersall, David Dolan, Akin Aytekin, Tulay Karadeniz, Can Sezer, Gulsen Solaker, Ece Toksabay, Murad Sezer, Ercan Gurses, Nevzat Devranoglu, Dasha Afanasieva, Birsen Altayli and Orhan Coskun; Writing by Peter Graff and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Catherine Evans, Mary Milliken and Paul Tait)



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