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At least 161 killed, scores wounded as Turkish military attempts coup

(Last Updated On: July 16, 2016)

 

3Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed he is in control of the country early Saturday as loyal military and police forces quashed a coup attempt during a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire that left scores dead and more than 1,000 wounded.

Turkish Prime Minister Benali Yildirim revised the number of dead in the clashes to 161. Acting chief of staff Gen. Umit Dundar said earlier that among those dead were police officers, soldiers, civilians and more than 100 described as “coup plotters.”

Dundar said that officers from the Air Force, military police and the armored units were mainly involved in the coup attempt.

Erdogan, who flew home early Saturday, vowed that coup supporters “will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey.”

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.

More than 1,500 military personnel were arrested across the country, said a senior official who was not authorized to speak to the media. The state-run Anadolu news agency said more than 1,100 were wounded. Colonels and generals implicated in the rebellion were fired and loyal troops rescued the military chief who had been taken hostage at an air base on the outskirts of Ankara.

Erdogan made his way to the Ataturk airport early Saturday and spoke to the crowds that gathered to greet him.

“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.”

Military chief of staff Gen. Hulusi Akar is taking over the command of the operation against the coup plotters, CNN-Turk said.

Fighting continued into the early morning, with the sounds of huge blasts echoing across Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, including at least one bomb that hit the parliament complex. Television footage showed images of broken glass and other debris strewn across a lobby leading to the assembly hall.

CNN-Turk said two bombs hit near the presidential palace, killing five people and wounding a number of others.

Earlier, the state-run television broadcaster TRT was similarly knocked off the air, but later came back online.

In his TV address, Erdogan blamed the attack on supporters of Fethullah Gulen.

Erdogan has long accused the cleric and his supporters of attempting to overthrow the government. The cleric lives in exile in Pennsylvania and promotes a philosophy that blends a mystical form of Islam with staunch advocacy of democracy, education, science and interfaith dialogue.

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 U.S.-led efforts to defeat the Islamic State group, 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.

Turkey’s Police Chief Celalettin Lekesiz said 16 coup plotters were killed in clashes at Turkey’s military police command.

In images broadcast on CNN-Turk, dozens of soldiers walked among tanks with their hand held up, surrendering to government forces on Istanbul’s Bosporus Bridge. Discarded gear was strewn on the ground. People, some holding flags, climbed onto the tanks.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has called all legislators for an emergency meeting Saturday, Anadolu reported.

In Washington, a statement from the White House said President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry agreed that both sides “should support the democratically elected government of Turkey, show restraint and avoid any violence or bloodshed.”

A senior Defense Department official told Fox News that the unrest was having “no impact” on anti-ISIS missions flown out of Incirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued a statement calling for “calm and restraint, and full respect for Turkey’s democratic institutions and its constitution.”

The coup attempt began late 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, as top commanders went on television to condemn the action and order troops back to their barracks.

Written by: Fox News

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