Uncertainty In Turkey After Military Faction Coup Attempt

Saturday, July 16th 2016, 4:24 am
By: News On 6

A group within Turkey's military engaged in what appeared to be an attempted coup, the prime minister said, with military jets flying over the capital and reports of vehicles blocking two major bridges in Istanbul.

Chaos and unrest continued overnight on the streets of Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, hours after the uprising began. Gunfire and explosions were reported in both cities amid clashes between the government, the military faction and the public.

A senior Turkish government official told CBS News at least 60 people had been killed in violence across the country, and more than 300 people arrested for taking part in the uprising.

Anadolu Agency said 17 of the dead were police officers, killed in a helicopter attack on the special forces headquarters on the outskirts of Ankara.

Early Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan characterized the coup supporters as "a minority within the military."

"Those who drive around in tanks will have to go back to where they came from..." he said. "The most important thing right now is that millions of Turkish citizens are on the streets at 4.30 a.m."

He insisted that his government remained in control.

"Turkey has a democratically elected government and president. We are in charge and we will continue exercising our powers until the end," Erdogan said. "We will not abandon our country to these invaders. It will end well."

Erdogan warned "they will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey," according to a transcript of his remarks provided by his office. "Those who stain the military's reputation must leave. The process has started today, and it will continue just as we fight other terrorist groups."

However, Erdogan acknowledged his general secretary was abducted and that there was no information on the chief of the military staff, who had reportedly be taken hostage.

Likewise, people in Turkey reported on social media that they witnessed gunfire and heard blasts even after Erdogan's announcement claiming that the coup was effectively over.

Earlier in the night, a few hours after the coup attempt began, Erdogan spoke with a private Turkish TV network on a live video-streaming app, urging the public to reject the uprising.

"I urge the Turkish people to convene at public squares and airports," Erdogan said. "There is no power higher than the power of the people. Let them do what they will at public squares and airports."

He continued, "The chain of command has been violated. This is a step against the higher ranks by their superiors. The judiciary will swiftly respond to this attack. I invite the people to public squares."

After Erdogan's appearance, live video appeared on social media showing crowds of people gathering in public squares in Istanbul and Ankara.

As dawn broke Saturday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told state-run Anadolu Agency hundreds of arrests were being made. "Things are getting better every minute," Yildirim said.

He called on people to remain in the streets to support the government and appealed for patience. He said a few air force planes flown by coup plotters remained in the air, but had earlier ordered those aircraft to be shot down.

Yildirim called all legislators for an emergency meeting on Saturday.

Anadolu Agency reported early Saturday that a bomb had hit the Turkish parliament in Ankara. CNN-Turk television said some police officers and parliament workers were hurt in the bombing.

A resident living not far from the area told the Associated Press he heard a massive explosion that shook buildings and saw a column of smoke but could not confirm if it was coming from parliament itself.

An F-16 fighter jet shot down a Sikorsky chopper hijacked by the coup plotters, a source in Erdogan's office told CBS News. It was unclear if it was the same helicopter used in the strike against the police building in Ankara where 17 officers were killed.

An official at Haydarpasa Numune Hospital in the Uskudar district of Istanbul told the Associated Press at least 150 wounded were being treated.

The official refused to comment whether there were fatalities. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

Earlier, NTV reported that six dead were brought to the same facility.

CBS News foreign correspondent Holly Williams reported from Istanbul that Erdogan has spent time trying to decrease the influence of the military, in effect attempting to "defang" the armed forces.

An extremely polarizing figure, Erdogan became president in 2014. Prior to that, he was prime minister and the mayor of Istanbul.

"People either love him or loath him. There is really nothing in between," Williams told CBSN.

Williams said soldiers and military vehicles were blocking traffic on the Bosporus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridges in Istanbul. Military jets repeatedly were seen flying low over the city, according to Williams. All flights to and from Istanbul's Ataturk airport were also cancelled.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.