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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the nation on Saturday that his government is in charge after a coup attempt brought a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire across the capital that left
90 dead and 1,154 people wounded.
Government officials said the coup appeared to have failed as Turks took to the streets overnight to confront troops attempting to take over the country. However, the sounds of huge blasts, including at least one bomb that hit the parliament complex, continued to echo across the capital, Ankara, and Istanbul throughout the morning.
Addressing crowds outside Istanbul Ataturk Airport on Saturday morning, Erdogan told a crowd assembled there: “They have pointed the people’s guns against the people. The president, whom 52 per cent 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.”
Earlier, Erdogan said the government was arresting coup supporters in the military and warned “they will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey,” according to a transcript of his remarks provided by his office. “Those who stain the military’s reputation must leave. The process has started today, and it will continue just as we fight other terrorist groups.”
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, said more than 120 arrests were made and has called all legislators for an emergency meeting Saturday.
Erdogan, who said his general secretary had been abducted by the coup plotters, flew into Ataturk airport early on Saturday and was greeted by large crowds. Hours earlier, as the coup attempt got underway, his office declined to say where he was, and he was forced to give an interview over FaceTime to a television station.
The chaos capped a period of political turmoil in Turkey which critics blamed on Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule, which has included a government shake-up, a crackdown on dissidents and opposition media and renewed conflict in the mainly Kurdish areas of the southeast.
Turkey, a NATO member, is a key partner in US-led efforts to defeat Islamic State, and has allowed American jets to use its Incirlik air base to fly missions against the extremists in nearby Syria and Iraq. A coup against the democratically elected government could make it difficult for the United States to continue to cooperate with Turkey.
US President Barack Obama urged all sides in Turkey to support the democratically elected government. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and called for respect for democracy.
The coup attempt began late on Friday, with a statement from the military saying it had seized control “to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for law and order to be reinstated”.
Fighter jets buzzed overhead, gunfire erupted outside military headquarters and vehicles blocked two major bridges in Istanbul. Soldiers backed by tanks blocked entry to Istanbul’s airport for a couple of hours before being overtaken by pro-government crowds carrying Turkish flags, according to footage broadcast by the Dogan news agency.
But the military did not appear unified, with top commanders taking to television to condemn the action and order troops back to their barracks. (AP)