Turkey’s attempted coup, 2,839 soldiers arrested, 161 killed

By BBC

Some 2,839 soldiers, including high-ranking officers, have been arrested over an attempted coup that is now over, says Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

In a night he called a “black stain on Turkish democracy”, Yildirim said 161 people had been killed and 1,440 wounded.

Explosions and gunfire were heard in Ankara, Istanbul and elsewhere overnight and thousands of Turks heeded President Erdogan’s call to rise up against the coup-plotters.

It is not clear who is behind the coup.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed a “parallel structure”, in a clear reference to Fethullah Gulen, a powerful but reclusive US-based Muslim cleric he accuses of fomenting unrest.

However, in a statement, Gulen rejected any suggestion he had links to the events, saying he condemned “in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey”.

Analysts now point fingers at the division among Turks over President Erdogan’s project to transform the country and the contagion of violence from the war in Syria.

President Erdogan and his AK Party have become experts at winning elections, but there have always been doubts about his long-term commitment to democracy. He is a political Islamist who has rejected modern Turkey’s secular heritage. Mr Erdogan has become increasingly authoritarian and is trying to turn himself into a strong executive president.

From the beginning Mr Erdogan’s government has been deeply involved in the war in Syria, backing Islamist opposition to President Assad.

But violence has spread across the border, helping to reignite the fight with the Kurdish PKK (the Kurdistan Workers’ Party), and making Turkey a target for the jihadists who call themselves Islamic State.

That has caused a lot of disquiet. Turkey has faced increasing turmoil and the attempt to overthrow President Erdogan will not be the last of it.

Events began on Friday evening when tanks took up positions on two bridges over the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, blocking it to traffic. Troops were seen on the streets and low-flying military jets were filmed over Ankara.

Shortly after, a faction of the army released a statement saying that a “peace council” was running the country, and it had launched the coup “to ensure and restore constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms”.

President Erdogan was in the south-west holiday resort of Marmaris at the time. He made a televised address, via his mobile phone, urging people to take to the streets to oppose the uprising.

He then flew on to Istanbul, saying Marmaris had been bombed after he left.

In a speech at Istanbul airport, Mr Erdogan said: “What is being perpetrated is a treason and a rebellion. They will pay a heavy price.”

Early Saturday, Turkish President Erdogan denounced the attempted coup as an “act of treason” and insisted his government remains in charge.

A faction of the armed forces is accused of trying to seize power. Officials say the coup is over though this has not been confirmed.

The cities of Ankara and Istanbul were hit by a night of bomb blasts, air strikes and gunfire which left at least 60 people dead and hundreds wounded.

Dramatic images showed dozens of soldiers walking away from their tanks with their hands up on one of Istanbul’s Bosphorus bridges, after they had closed it off to traffic all night.

The Red Crescent in Turkey says 800 people are in hospital in Ankara and 200 in Istanbul after the night of violence.

It all began on Friday evening when tanks took up positions on key bridges in Istanbul, which were blocked, troops were seen on the streets and low-flying military jets were filmed over Ankara, the capital.

A faction of the army then declared that a “peace council” was running the country, and there would be a curfew and martial law.

The group said it had launched the coup “to ensure and restore constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms”.

It said that the democratic and secular rule of law had been eroded by the current government, and there would be a new constitution.

  

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