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Turkish president says he's in charge after coup attempt

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 16/07/2016 Kiran Nazish and Doug Stanglin

Turkish President Recep Erdogan addressed a large crowd in Istanbul Saturday morning, as security personnel rounded up suspects after a chaotic coup attempt that sent tanks and demonstrators into the streets while aircraft battled overhead.

"In Turkey the army is not governing the state and they cannot, and this should be known by all," Erdogan said. "The government is in control."

Live coverage of events in Turkey from BreakingNews.com

Erdogan's return, reported by state-run media reports, indicates that the government appeared to have repelled the attempted coup, while fighting, intrigue and accusations continued in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara.

An official in the president's office said 60 people have been killed during the coup attempt, and 336 have been arrested in the coup plot, the Associated Press reports.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called all legislators for an emergency meeting Saturday, according to state-run Andolu Agency.

The coup apparently escalated quickly from the seizing of television stations to an armed confrontation between loyalists and crowds of government supporters on one side, and a military group calling itself the Peace at Home Council on the other.

Trouble became apparent when travelers reported on their Twitter accounts that flights had been canceled at the Istanbul airport while Turkish military jets were flying low over the city of Istanbul. Military vehicles blocked two bridges spanning the Bosporus Strait that separate the European and Anatolian sides of Istanbul. Turkish news agency Dogan reported soldiers fired on people trying to cross the Bosporus bridge, wounding several.

Reports poured in of military units seizing newsrooms at state-controlled television stations. Then a military helicopter fired on a headquarters building of Turkey's special forces police in Ankara, killing 17 police officers, according to the Andolu Agency. A Turkish military F-16 shot a Sikorsky helicopter out of the sky, the agency said.

CNN Türk reported that the coup attempt got underway in Ankara when two busloads of soldiers entered the headquarters of the state-run TRT news agency, and that the channel then started to broadcast a stream of weather forecasts, Hurriet reported.

CNN Türk tweeted that soldiers had landed in Dogan Media Center where the broadcaster is based and entered the studio. After they entered the control room, the CNN Türk anchor said on the air, "That's it, we now have to go."

An ashen-looking anchorwoman at TRT1 TV read a script approved by the military who seized her newsroom, referring to Erdogan as a traitor.

The group's statement said it took action “to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for the law and order to be reinstated,” the private Dogan agency reported.

Anadolu Agency reported that a bomb hit the Turkish parliament in Ankara, while CNN Türk television reported some police officers and parliament workers were injured in the attack.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during an attempted coup in Istanbul, Turkey. on July 16, 2016.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during an attempted coup in Istanbul, Turkey. on July 16, 2016.
© Huseyin Aldemir/Reuters

Erdogan, who'd been vacationing earlier Friday on the Turkish coastline, issued a defiant message in a FaceTime call to NTV on his iPhone. The coup was a failure, he declared and his government remained in charge. He called on his followers to rally in the city squares and to flood the streets to confront the coup plotters.

"I've never seen anything more powerful than the people," he said.

In Washington, President Obama urged all parties in Turkey to support the government of President Erdogan.

Thousands of people heeded Erdogan's call and took to the streets, backing down the military early Saturday by climbing onto tanks and blocking movement of military vehicles.

A lawyer for the Turkish government, Robert Amsterdam, said "there are indications" that a cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania had "direct involvement" with the coup plotters. Amsterdam said he and his firm had attempted multiple times to warn the U.S. government of the threat posed by Fethullah Gulen and his movement, according to the Associated Press.

The president of a group that promotes Gulen's ideas denied the claim.

"We condemn any military intervention in (the) domestic politics of turkey," said Y. Alp Aslandogan of the New York-based Alliance for Shared Values.

As both sides claimed the upper hand, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim challenged the military group's claim that it was in charge, saying only that there had been "an uprising," according to the Hurriet Daily News. He said Turkey would never allow any “initiative that would interrupt democracy.”

In Ankara, the U.S. Embassy issued an emergency message urging American citizens to stay indoors.

"We encourage U.S. citizens to shelter in place and do not go the U.S. Embassy or Consulates at this time," the embassy said. The U.S. Air Force operates out of the Incirlik Air Base in south central Turkey.

The Pentagon released a statement saying it was "taking appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of our service members, civilians, their families, and our facilities." The statement said there had been no impact at Incirlik Air Base, and air operations against Islamic State forces were continuing.

There have been three successful coups in Turkey, a NATO ally, since 1960, and in 1997 the military carried out a "soft" coup, issuing directives to the Turkish government that it was forced to accept. The military has cast itself as the traditional protector of secular, democratic rule.


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