The coup attempt by a group of military officers in Turkey seems to have fizzled out. After several hours of tense standoff, the coup plotters were beaten back and the police and people were able to reclaim control. Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan who flew into Istanbul airport from his holiday said the military will be cleansed of these elements.
Friday July 15, 2016, Updated 20:09 DST
Latest reports from Turkey say that the coup attempt against the civilian government has failed. The coup plotters were supporters of Fethullah Gulen who lives in exile in Pennsylvania. President Recep Tayip Erdogan ridiculed Gulen telling him that Turkey cannot be ruled from Pennsylvania. Gulen, however, has issued a statement condemning the coup and said his name is being deliberately dragged into the affair!
Television footage showed police officers arresting military personnel involved in the coup. At least 17 policemen were killed in the Police Headquarters in Istanbul earlier but the coup plotters were finally overpowered. A helicopter that was supporting the coup plotters was also shot down by air force pilots loyal to the government.
The coup plotters have been expelled from most buildingst they had occupied. The government has also retaken control of the TV station from where the coup plotters had announced the takeover of government and declared martial law. In response to Erdogan's appeal, the people came out in large numbers into the streets in support of the government. They confronted the coup plotters and blocked the movement of tanks.
It is becoming obvious that the coup attempt has failed but it has exposed serious fissures in the Turkish armed forces. While it is clear that the coup plotters would be court martialled further deepening fault lines in the military. The involvement of foreign intelligence agencies also cannot be ruled out. Gulen has close connections to the American CIA as well as the Israeli Mossad.
Reports from Turkey say a group of senior military officers has taken over power in the country. The announcement was made on Turkey’s NTV although Prime Minister Binali Yildirim earlier in the day denounced the takeover as an “illegal action” by a military group. He said the group would face severe punishment.
He insisted that the government remained in charge but there is no word about the whereabouts of President Recep Tayip Erdogan. CNN Turk reported that Erdogan was "safe" but did not elaborate.
Erdoğan issued a statement via Facetime on CNN Turk television. He urged the people to “Go to the streets and give them their answer.” If the people heed his call, there is likely to be civil war breaking out in the country. He also announced: “I am coming to a square in Ankara.” Which one, he did not elaborate nor where the call was issued from.
But he insisted: “This was done from outside the chain of command.” He said the lower officers had rebelled against senior officers referring to officers that refused to abide by the army chief’s command. He is seen as Erdogan’s man. “Those who are responsible, we will give them the necessary punishment,” he said.
Two major bridges in Istanbul—the Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet—have been shut down with troops occupying both and traffic blocked. Helicopters are flying overhead as are low flying aircraft.
Tanks are stationed outside the country’s main airport in Istanbul. All flights in and out of the country have been cancelled. Gunfire was heard outside Istanbul police HQ as well as in the capital Ankara.
A statement from the military group read out on NTV television said: "The power in the country has been seized in its entirety" but a Turkish presidential source was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying this was not authorized by the military command. The coup-makers announced that they had taken the army chief, General Hulusi Akar “hostage”.
Whether the coup succeeds or fails, it indicates a serious split within the ranks of the military. The fact that the army chief has been taken hostage suggests that he was with Erdogan but other officers were unhappy about the direction of Turkish policy. Also, Erdogan was becoming increasingly authoritarian.
It appears a faction within the military—it is not clear how large—was unhappy with Erdogan’s policies. Syria is clearly on top of the list but also the manner in which the president has provoked a fight with the Kurds that the military has to wage and pay the price for.
Crescent International has been in touch with a number of people in Turkey. Their information is sketchy since they are all glued to their television sets relying on whatever information is beamed to them and whatever anecdotal information they can glean from friends.
The situation in Turkey remains fluid. It will not be another day or so before it becomes clear whether the coup has succeeded or not and who might be behind it.