Friday 23 March 2018

Emotional Turkish PM condemns killing of 'martyrs' in failed coup

Turkey's Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, left, stands next to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim at a press conference in Ankara, Turkey (AP Photo)
Turkey's Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, left, stands next to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim at a press conference in Ankara, Turkey (AP Photo)

Suzan Fraser and Dominique Soguel

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said 232 individuals were killed during the failed coup attempt.

He said the toll comprises "208 martyrs" - in reference to government supporters - and 24 coup plotters.

With a cracked voice and tears, he repeated a question his grandson had put to him: "Why are they killing people?"

He said the pro-government victims were 145 civilians, 60 police officers and three soldiers.x

The PM also said 50 coup backers and 1,491 government supporters were injured in the unrest.

He put the total numbers of detentions since Friday's tumultuous night at 7,543, including 6,030 military.

Read more: European history is speeding up as Turkish coup follows Brexit

According to Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency, among those being questioned by prosecutors are 27 generals and admirals.

They include former air force commander General Akin Ozturk, who has been described as the ringleader of the foiled uprising.

Ozturk, who remained on active duty, has denied he was involved and insisted he worked to quell the uprising in statements he made to Turkish media.

Meanwhile, warplanes are continuing to patrol Turkey's skies, in a sign that authorities fear the threat against the government is not yet over.

A senior official said F-16 jets guarded Turkish airspace overnight, action ordered by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "for the control of the airspace and security".

The coup plotters sent warplanes firing on key government installations and tanks rolling into major cities, but the rebellion - which was not supported by the military's top brass - was quashed by loyal government forces and masses of civilians who took to the streets.

Read more: In times of stress, Turkey and the West only come closer together

The interior ministry has sacked close to 9,000 personnel across the country following the coup attempt. Anadolu said 8,777 employees attached to the ministry were dismissed, including 30 governors, 52 civil service inspectors and 16 legal advisers.

Other media reports said police and military police officers and coast guards were also removed from duty.

The government alleges the coup conspirators were loyal to moderate US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Mr Erdogan has often accused of trying to overthrow the government.

Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, espouses a philosophy which blends a mystical form of Islam with democracy. He is a former Erdogan ally turned bitter enemy who has been put on trial in his absence in Turkey, where the government has labelled his movement a terrorist organisation. He strongly denies the government's charges.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would entertain an extradition request for Gulen, but Turkey would have to present "legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny". So far, officials have not offered evidence he was involved.

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