News Europe

Thursday 30 March 2017

President warns Turkish coup plotters will pay 'heavy price' as government confirms 161 killed and 2,839 arrested

* 161 people killed, 2,839 arrested
* Erdogan says coup plotters will pay heavy price
* President promises purge of military
* Blames followers of U.S.-based cleric for encouraging plot
* Some 100,000 Irish people holiday in Turkey every year
* Dept Foreign Affairs advise Irish citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Turkey
* PM Yildirim: Nothing will harm Turkish democracy

Policemen and people cheer atop a military vehicle after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Policemen and people cheer atop a military vehicle after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Policemen stand on a military vehicle after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Women wave Turkish flags after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar, Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Interior Minister Efkan Ala (LtoR) arrive for a news conference, following an overnight attempted Turkish military coup, in Ankara, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
Men walk inside the destroyed parliament building in Ankara, July 16, 2016 after an attempted coup Turkey. REUTERS/Stringer
A wounded man is carried away during an attempted coup in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. Picture: REUTERS/Yagiz Karahan
People attack and try to stop a Turkish police armored vehicle, carrying Turkish soldiers that participated in the coup and surrendered, backdropped by Istanbul's iconic Bosporus Bridge, Saturday, July 16, 2016. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the nation Saturday that his government is in charge after a coup attempt brought a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire across the capital of Ankara. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
REFILE CORRECTING TYPO - A police armored vehicle uses a water cannon to disperse anti-government forces on Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
A helicopter hovers near the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan cheer at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is seen amid his supporters at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is seen amid his supporters at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan cheer at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir
Turkish people wave the national flags on a car in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, July 16, 2016. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking on national television from Istanbul, told the nation Saturday that his government was working to crush a coup attempt after a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire across the Turkish capital of Ankara. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Turkish people holding flags are driven in a car, backdropped by Istanbul's iconic Bosporus Bridge, Saturday, July 16, 2016. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the nation Saturday that his government is in charge after a coup attempt brought a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire across the capital of Ankara. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
People demonstrate in front of the Republic Monument at the Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
People demonstrate in front of the Republic Monument at the Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Shots are fired in the air to disperse supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan near the Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Turkish military stand guard near the the Taksim Square as people wave with Turkish flags in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan are dispersed with shots in the air by the military at the Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan are dispersed with shots in the air by the military at the Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Turkish military stand guard near the the Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Turkish military stand guard near the the Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Police officers stand guard near the Turkish military headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Tumay Berkin
Turkish military block access to the Bosphorus bridge, which links the city's European and Asian sides, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
Turkish soldiers block Istanbul's iconic Bosporus Bridge on Friday (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Turkish soldiers are seen on the Asian side of Istanbul, Friday (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Turkish military block access to the Bosphorus bridge, which links the city's European and Asian sides, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
Turkish soldiers block Istanbul's iconic Bosporus Bridge on Friday (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Turkish military stand guard near the the Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Turkish military stand guard near the the Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Army tanks are pictured driving on a road next to cars during a coup by the Turkish military in Istanbul in this video grab taken July 16, 2016. DHA via REUTERS TV
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks to media in the resort town of Marmaris, Turkey, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Kenan Gurbuz

Cathal McMahon, Louise Kelly and agencies

Forces loyal to Turkey's government fought on Saturday to crush the last remnants of a military coup attempt which collapsed after crowds answered President Tayyip Erdogan's call to take to the streets and dozens of rebels abandoned their tanks.

More than 160 people were killed, including many civilians, after a faction of the armed forces tried to seize power using tanks and attack helicopters. Some strafed the headquarters of Turkish intelligence and parliament in the capital, Ankara, and others seized a major bridge in Istanbul.

Erdogan accused the coup plotters of trying to kill him and launched a purge of the armed forces, which last used force to stage a successful coup more than 30 years ago.

"They will pay a heavy price for this," said Erdogan, who also saw off mass public protests against his rule three years ago. "This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army."

One government minister said some military commanders were still being held hostage by the plotters. But the government declared the situation fully under control, saying 161 people had been killed and 2,839 had been rounded up from foot soldiers to senior officers, including those who had formed "the backbone" of the rebellion.

A successful overthrow of Erdogan, who has ruled the country of about 80 million people since 2003, would have marked one of the biggest shifts in the Middle East in years, transforming a major U.S. ally while war rages on its border.

However, a failed coup attempt could still destabilise a NATO member that lies between the European Union and the chaos of Syria, with Islamic State bombers targeting Turkish cities and the government also at war with Kurdish separatists.

Erdogan, who had been holidaying on the southwest coast when the coup was launched, flew into Istanbul before dawn on Saturday and was shown on television outside Ataturk Airport.





Addressing a crowd of thousands of flag-waving supporters at the airport later, Erdogan said the government remained at the helm, although disturbances continued in Ankara.

Erdogan, a polarising figure whose Islamist-rooted ideology lies at odds with supporters of modern Turkey's secular principles, said the plotters had tried to attack him in the resort town of Marmaris.




"They bombed places I had departed right after I was gone," he said. "They probably thought we were still there."

Erdogan's AK Party has long had strained relations with the military, which has a history of mounting coups to defend secularism although it has not seized power directly since 1980.

Still frame taken from video shows Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan speaking via a Facetime video connection to address the nation during an attempted coup, in Marmais, Turkey
Still frame taken from video shows Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan speaking via a Facetime video connection to address the nation during an attempted coup, in Marmais, Turkey

While loved by his supporters, Erdogan's conservative religious views have also alienated many ordinary Turks who accuse him of authoritarianism. Police used heavy force in 2013 to suppress mass protest demanding more freedom.

SMART PHONE ADDRESS

Policemen stand atop military armored vehicles after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Policemen stand atop military armored vehicles after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
People pose near a tank after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
A man walks inside the destroyed parliament building in Ankara, July 16, 2016 after an attempted coup Turkey. REUTERS/Stringer
Turkish military block access to the Bosphorus bridge, which links the city's European and Asian sides, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
Turkish soldiers block Istanbul's iconic Bosporus Bridge on Friday (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Turkish soldiers are seen on the Asian side of Istanbul, Friday (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Turkish military block access to the Bosphorus bridge, which links the city's European and Asian sides, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
Turkish soldiers block Istanbul's iconic Bosporus Bridge on Friday (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

In a night that sometimes verged on the bizarre, Erdogan used social media to speak to the Turkish people - even though he is an avowed enemy of such technology when his opponents use it, frequently targetting Twitter and Facebook.

At one point Erdogan effectively addressed the nation via a video calling service, appearing on the smart phone of a CNN Turk reporter who held it up to a studio camera so that viewers to the network could see him.

He said the "parallel structure" was behind the coup attempt -- his shorthand for followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric whom he has repeatedly accused of trying to foment an uprising in the military, media and judiciary.

Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, once supported Erdogan but became a nemesis. The pro-Gulen Alliance for Shared Values said it condemned any military intervention in domestic politics.

As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations," Gulen said in a statement.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States had not received any request to extradite Gulen.

The purge appeared to go beyond the military. Citing a decision by the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, broadcaster NTV reported that authorities had removed 2,745 judges from duty.

Neighbouring Greece arrested eight men aboard a Turkish military helicopter which landed in the northern city of Alexandroupolis on Saturday, the country's police ministry said, adding that they had requested political asylum.

LAWMAKERS IN HIDING

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.

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 senior Turkish official said later on Saturday attacks on the parliament had "largely stopped".

A Turkish military commander also 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".

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.

European Council President Donald Tusk called for a swift return to Turkey's constitutional order, saying tensions there could not be resolved by guns.

"Turkey is a key partner for the European Union. The EU fully supports the democratically elected government, the institutions of the country and the rule of law," Tusk said at regional summit in Mongolia.

FLIGHTS RESUME

Flag carrier Turkish Airways resumed flights on Saturday, Erdogan said. Malaysia Airports, the operator of Sabiha Gokcen International Airport, Istanbul's second airport, said it would continue to process flights in and out of Turkey.

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 pro-coup faction 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.

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

Turkey is 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 suffered numerous bombings and shootings this year, including an attack two weeks ago by Islamists at Ataturk airport that killed more than 40 people, as well as those staged by Kurdish militants.

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.

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. Flag carrier Turkish Airways resumed flights on Saturday, Erdogan said.

Malaysia Airports, the operator of Sabiha Gokcen International Airport, Istanbul's second airport, said it would continue to process flights in and out of Turkey.

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 pro-coup faction 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.

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

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 is 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.

IRISH CITIZENS IN TURKEY

There are fears that Irish citizens may become stranded in Turkey amidst an ongoing military coup after the country’s airports were closed tonight.

Irish model Judy Fitzgerald, who previously held the title of Miss Bikini Ireland, was in Istanbul when a number of military officers launched an unsuccessful coup.

Taking to Facebook the Limerick model posted a video of military men walking through the city armed with guns.

  • Read More:

Some 100,000 Irish people holiday in Turkey every year and there are currently 1,000 Irish living in Turkey.

A Turkish Airlines flight from Dublin to Istanbul landed in Turkey at around 10pm on Friday night.

Department of Foreign Affairs has updated the travel advisory for Irish citizens travelling to Turkey at this time.

"We are advising Irish citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Turkey at this time.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs and our embassy in Ankara are monitoring the evolving situation in Ankara and Istanbul where a heightened security presence and some incidents of violence are reported.

"The situation is unclear, and Irish citizens considering travel to Turkey are advised to delay travel until the situation becomes clearer.

Dublin native Maria Joyce, who runs the Annalivia restaurant in Istanbul, told independent.ie that Irish in the city had fears of missing flights back to Ireland tomorrow morning.

“We have an Irish wedding party in our resort at the moment and their main concern is that they won’t be able to get their flight home.

“There isn’t too much information on what is happening at the moment, and people in the restaurant are on their phones contacting their families.

“I wouldn’t say there is a sense of fear- it doesn’t seem that anybody’s life is in danger. The only fear is that flights will be cancelled and people could be stranded here.  have been in contact with my family at home to tell them I am safe.

There isn’t any immediate danger in Istanbul, and we’re waiting for more information to come through,” Ms Joyce added.

Read more: Timeline of events: Turkey's attempted coup - what we know so far

'Not some tinpot little coup'

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've got control of the airports and are expecting control over the TV station imminently. They control several strategic points in Istanbul.

"Given the scale of the operation, it is difficult to imagine they will stop short of prevailing. It's not just a few colonels," the source repeated.

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."

Travel advisory

France asked its citizens in Turkey to stay indoors, a French diplomatic source said.

"A message was sent saying that serious events were taking place in Ankara and Istanbul," said a French diplomatic source.

"French citizens have been asked to stay inside."

US State Department's travel alert tells US citizens in Turkey to shelter and stay indoors.

President Barack Obama was briefed on what the White House called "the unfolding situation" in Turkey, a NATO partner and ally for the United States in the fight against the militant group Islamic State.

Read more: Attempted coup in Turkey carried live on social media despite internet blockages

"The president's national security team has apprised him of the unfolding situation in Turkey," Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement.

"The president will continue to receive regular updates," Price said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said he emphasised the United States' "absolute support" for Turkey's democratically elected, civilian government during a phone call with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

"I spoke this evening to Foreign Minister Cavusoglu and emphasized the United States' absolute support for Turkey's democratically elected, civilian government and democratic institutions," Kerry said in a statement, adding that Washington viewed the situation in Turkey with the "gravest concern".

US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she supported Turkey's civilian government as it faced an attempted coup.

Clinton said in a statement she was following the events in Turkey "with great concern."

"We should all urge calm and respect for laws, institutions, and basic human rights and freedoms - and support for the democratically elected civilian government," she said.

Turkey has closed the three border crossings with Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said, reiterating its appeal to Bulgarians to avoid any travels to the country's southern neighbour.

The border crossings from Bulgarian side remain open, the ministry said in a statement.

The government said it has bolstered patrols on the Bulgarian-Turkish border following the unfolding developments there.

Turkey lira slump

Reports of the coup attempt also stoked safehaven bids for U.S. Treasury bonds, paring their earlier losses.

The Turkey lira was last down 5pc at 3.0300 lira per dollar.

"Have you seen the latest headlines on Turkey? That probably has something to do with it. This dollar surge is very much headline-driven," said Vassili Serebriakov, currency strategist at Credit Agricole in New York.

Additional reporting from agencies

Online Editors

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in World News