Erdogan tells US to handover Fethullah Gulen
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the United States should extradite opposition leader Fethullah Gulen who he blames for Friday's failed coup attempt
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the United States should extradite opposition leader Fethullah Gulen who he blames for Friday's failed coup attempt. His call comes despite claims by Gulen and his supporters that they had opposed the coup and any military intervention.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Saturday 161 people were killed in the coup attempt, with 2,839 soldiers now detained on suspicion of involvement. The toll 161 did not include the assailants, he emphasized. Turkey's acting army chief Umit Dundar had earlier said 104 putschists had been killed.
Responding to Erdogan’s call the Obama administration said it would entertain an extradition request for the US-based cleric, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday.
In a televised speech Erdogan said Turkey had never turned back any extradition request for “terrorists” by the US and stressed Turkey’s joint role with the US in fighting terrorism. “I say if we are strategic partners then you should bring about our request,” he said.
Visiting Luxembourg, Kerry said Turkey would have to prove the wrongdoing of Gulen, who left Turkey in 1999.
Gulen has harshly condemned the attempted coup attempt by military officers that resulted in a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire that left dozens dead. But Erdogan's government is blaming the chaos on the cleric, who 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.
Erdogan accuses Gulen - a former ally - of trying to overthrow the government. But Gulen said on Saturday the attempted overthrow may have been staged, and he urged the Turkish people not to view military intervention in a positive light.
In the same speech, surrounded by a crowd of supporters, Erdogan told a crowd chanting for the death penalty on Saturday that such demands may be discussed in parliament.
Speaking outside his Cankaya palace in Ankara, Yildirim, who was flanked by top general Hulusi Akar who had been held during the coup attempt, also described the putsch bid as a "black stain" on Turkish democracy. He added that 1,440 people had been wounded.
Yildirim had also accused Gulen, stating: "Fethullah Gulen is the leader of a terrorist organization.
"Whichever country is behind him is not a friend of Turkey and in a serious war against Turkey," he added.
Close to 200 unarmed soldiers at the Turkish military headquarters surrendered after the coup attempt, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported Saturday.
Earlier, around 50 soldiers surrendered on one of the bridges across the Bosphorus in Istanbul, abandoning their tanks with their hands raised in the air, live footage showed.
A witness earlier saw tens of other pro-coup soldiers surrendering to armed police after being surrounded in Istanbul's central Taksim square, Reuters news agency reported.
A Turkish official said 29 colonels and five generals were removed from their posts in military after the coup attempt.
Friday’s attempted coup in Turkey ‘appears to have been unsuccessful’ a Turkish official was reported as saying, early Saturday morning.
The senior official told The Associated Press all government officials were in charge of their offices. Their comments came as Erdogan arrived at Istanbul airport where he was greeted by large crowds, but also amid reports of explosions near the parliament buildings in Ankara.
Erdogan spoke immediately landing at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport and said that ‘uprising was act of treason.’
The coup started when members of the military blocked streets, bridges, government buildings, took over the state controlled media and shutdown social media.
But within the hours that followed Erdogan appeared on CNN Turk on the screen of a smartphone and called on the people to take to the streets.
Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told NTV television: “The military commanders have made it clear that the coup plotters violated the chain of command... The people have shown that they stand in solidarity with democracy and the elected government.”
Speaking to CNN Turk Erdogan had called on the nation to gather in the squares in response to the “attempted uprising”. He said it was an act encouraged by “parallel structure”.
Air strikes against rebel tanks
Turkish authorities shot down a military helicopter apparently operated by soldiers trying to stage the coup as it fired on the offices of state satellite operator Turksat in the capital Ankara on Saturday, broadcaster CNN Turk said.
Turkish army F-16s also launched air strikes against tanks stationed by coup backers outside the presidential palace in Ankara, an official with the presidency said.
"Turkish F-16s have launched air strikes against tanks outside the presidential palace," the official said, adding that a military helicopter, which was involved in an attack against a Turkish satellite operator earlier, has been downed in the Golbasi district of Ankara.
Earlier, maritime authorities shut Istanbul's Bosphorus Strait to transiting tankers "for security and safety" reasons, shipping agent GAC said.
Some cargo carriers like bulkers were still being allowed to travel through the key shipping channel which divides Istanbul into European and Asian sides, GAC said.
At approximately 1 am local time, Turkish army helicopters opened fire on the intelligence headquarters in Ankara and guards returned fire, Al Arabiya reported. Witnesses were quoted as saying they heard an explosion in the capital.
Tanks opened fire around the Turkish parliament building, Reuters reported. Elsewhere in Istanbul there were reports of gun fire coming from the airport.
The group affiliated with US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who was accused by Erdogan of being behind the coup attempt condemned the uprising. Gulen later strongly condemned the attempted Turkey coup in a statement.
“For more than 40 years, Fethullah Gulen and Hizmet participants have advocated for, and demonstrated their commitment to, peace and democracy,” the Alliance for Shared Values said in a statement.
“We have consistently denounced military interventions in domestic politics. These are core values of Hizmet participants. We condemn any military intervention in domestic politics of Turkey.”
Their denial came after the Turkish Prime Minister insisted that the attempted coup was an act of rebellion by the Gulen movement.
The military faction attempting the coup took control of some tanks and ordered its forces to try to take over the streets. But the attempts were unsuccessful in many areas, a senior Turkish government official said.
Had the coup been successful, the overthrow of Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003 (first as Prime Minister and then as President since 2014) would have amounted to one of the biggest shifts in power in the Middle East in years.
Responding to claims early during the coup attempt Turkey’s prime minister said the attempted coup would be put down. Yildirim said the elected government would remain in office.
“Some people illegally undertook an illegal action outside of the chain of command,” Yildirim said in comments broadcast by private channel NTV.
“The government elected by the people remains in charge. This government will only go when the people say so.”
Blocking off bridges
Dogan News Agency footage showed cars and buses being diverted. CNN Turkey showed two military vehicles and a group of soldiers lined up at the entrance of one of the bridges in Turkey’s biggest city.
A Turkish official who did not want to be named said soldiers had been deployed in other cities in Turkey, but did not specify which ones. Dogan News Agency reported the national police directorate summoned all police to duty in Ankara.
Turkey’s minister for EU Affairs, Omer Celik, called on soldiers to disobey orders after the military announced on Friday that it was seizing control of the government in a coup.
Meanwhile Reuters cited a pilot who said all flights from Istanbul’s Ataturk airport had been cancelled after the events in Turkey.
As the events developed countries around the world issued advisories to their citizens in Turkey to stay indoors.
"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." Similar statements were made but other countries.
Global leaders from United States President Barack Obama to German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted during the coup attempt, both siding with Erdogan and the elected government of Turkey. Others like United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling for clam and return to civilian rule.
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.
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, and which has a history of military coups.
(With Reuters, AFP and AP)