Archive for July 24, 2016


July 18, 2016

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s Interior Ministry has fired nearly 9,000 police officers, bureaucrats and others and detained thousands of suspected plotters following a foiled coup against the government, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported Monday.

News of the firings and detentions came as the U.S. and European Union urged the government to uphold democracy and human rights as it pursues the military officers and anyone else involved in the coup attempt.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said a total of 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 has blamed Friday’s failed coup — which it says killed 208 government supporters and 24 plotters — on backers of a U.S.-based Muslim cleric who has become President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s chief opponent.

The situation creates a sticky diplomatic situation — Turkey is a NATO member and key Western ally in the fight against the Islamic State group, but the EU and U.S. expressed alarm Monday about its response to the coup.

Even before the weekend chaos, Turkey had been wracked by political turmoil that critics blamed on Erdogan’s increasingly heavy-handed rule. He has shaken up the government, cracked down on dissent, restricted the media and renewed fighting with Kurdish rebels.

“This is no excuse to take the country away from fundamental rights and the rule of law, and we will be extremely vigilant on that,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said at a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said a total of 7,543 people had been detained since Friday, including 6,030 military personnel. On Monday, according to Anadolu, prosecutors entered Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, which is key to the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group. A Turkish brigadier general at the base has already been detained for his alleged role in Friday’s uprising, and news reports say refueling aircraft that took off from the base helped keep F-16s used by the coup-plotters up in the air.

Though government officials offered reassurances that life has returned to normal, warplanes patrolled Turkey’s skies overnight in a sign that authorities feared that the threat was not yet over. Anadolu said Erdogan ordered the overnight patrol by F-16s “for the control of the airspace and security” after a faction within the military launched the attempted coup.

The rebellion, which saw warplanes firing on key government installations and tanks rolling into major cities, was quashed by loyal government forces and masses of civilians who took to the streets. The country’s top military brass did not support the coup.

Yildirim’s voice cracked and he wept as he spoke with reporters after a cabinet meeting and repeated a question his grandson had put to him: “Why are they killing people?” He said he had no answer, but that Turkey would make the coup plotters answer “in such a way that the whole world will see.”

On Monday, Turkish prosecutors began questioning 27 generals and admirals. Anadolu reported the group includes former Air Force commander Gen. Akin Ozturk, who has been described as the ringleader of the foiled uprising. Ozturk, who was still on active duty and has now been detained, has denied he was involved and insists he worked to quell the uprising in statements to Turkish media.

On Sunday, Yildirim said the coup had failed and life had returned to normal, but he and other officials also urged people to take to streets at night, saying risks remained. At nightfall, thousands of flag-waving people rallied in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, Ankara’s Kizilay Square and elsewhere. Erdogan remained in Istanbul despite statements that he would return to the capital and address crowds in Kizilay Square.

The government moved swiftly in the wake of the coup to shore up its power and remove those perceived as enemies. On Monday, security forces continued raiding military facilities in search of suspected plotters. In addition to Incirlik, they searched the Air Force Academy premises and residences in Istanbul, Anadolu reported. It was not clear if any arrests were made.

The crackdown targeted not only generals and soldiers, but a wide swath of the judiciary that has sometimes blocked Erdogan, raising concerns that the effort to oust him will push Turkey even further into authoritarian rule.

The failed coup and the subsequent crackdown followed moves by Erdogan to reshape both the military and the judiciary. He had indicated a shake-up of the military was imminent and had also taken steps to increase his influence over the judiciary.

It is not clear how the post-coup purge will affect the judiciary, how the government will move to replace the dismissed judges and prosecutors, or where the trials for those detained would be held. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus defended the crackdown on judiciary officials in an interview with CNN-Turk, saying many of them would have played a role had the coup attempt succeeded.

The government alleged the coup conspirators were loyal to moderate U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan has often accused of trying to overthrow the government. Gulen, who lives in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, espouses a philosophy that blends a mystical form of Islam with democracy. He is a former Erdogan ally turned bitter foe who has been put on trial in absentia in Turkey, where the government has labeled his movement a terrorist organization. He strongly denies the government’s charges.

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.

Yildirim said those involved with the failed coup “will receive every punishment they deserve.” Erdogan suggested that Turkey might reinstate capital punishment, which was abolished in 2004 as part of the country’s bid to join the European Union. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said Monday that Turkey reinstating the death penalty would mean the end of negotiations for the country to join the EU.

Soguel reported from Istanbul.

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July 18, 2016

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Warplanes patrolled Turkey’s skies days after a failed coup, officials said Monday, in a sign that authorities feared that the threat against the government was not yet over. A senior official said F-16 jets guarded the Turkish airspace overnight, after a faction within the military launched an attempted coup late Friday against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules.

The state-run news agency, Anadolu Agency, said Erdogan ordered the overnight patrol by F-16s “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. At least 294 people were killed and more than 1,400 wounded in the rebellion that took the government — and much of the world — by surprise.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the coup had failed and life had returned to normal. But he and other officials also urged people to take to streets at night, saying risks remained in its aftermath.

At nightfall, thousands of flag-waving people rallied in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, Ankara’s Kizilay Square and elsewhere. Erdogan remained in Istanbul despite statements that he would return to the capital and address crowds in Kizilay Square. News reports said close to 2,000 special forces police officers were deployed in Istanbul to guard key installations.

The government moved swiftly in the wake of the coup to shore up its power and remove those perceived as enemies, detaining some 6,000 people including a number of generals. As the cabinet prepared to meet for its first regular session since the attempt, security forces continued raiding military facilities in search of suspected plotters. They searched the Air Force Academy premises and residences in Istanbul early on Monday, Anadolu reported. It was not clear if any arrests were made.

The crackdown targeted not only generals and soldiers, but a wide swath of the judiciary that has sometimes blocked Erdogan, raising concerns that the effort to oust him will push Turkey even further into authoritarian rule.

The failed coup and the subsequent crackdown followed moves by Erdogan to reshape both the military and the judiciary. He had indicated a shake-up of the military was imminent and had also taken steps to increase his influence over the judiciary.

It is not clear how the post-coup purge will affect the judiciary, how the government will move to replace the dismissed judges and prosecutors, or where the trials for those detained would be held. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus defended the crackdown on judiciary officials in an interview with CNN-Turk, saying many of them would have played a role had the coup attempt succeeded.

“All of these (judiciary officials) did not necessarily have first-degree knowledge about this pro-junta initiative. Had they succeeded (with the coup) it is clear that these people would have been included into this business. Therefore, anyone connected to this group will be exposed.”

The government alleged the coup conspirators were loyal to moderate U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan has often accused of trying to overthrow the government. Yildirim said those involved with the failed coup “will receive every punishment they deserve.” Erdogan suggested that Turkey might reinstate capital punishment, which was abolished in 2004 as part of the country’s bid to join the European Union.

Even before the weekend chaos in Turkey, the NATO member and key Western ally in the fight against the Islamic State group had been wracked by political turmoil that critics blamed on Erdogan’s increasingly heavy-handed rule. He has shaken up the government, cracked down on dissent, restricted the media and renewed fighting with Kurdish rebels.

Gulen, who lives in Saylorsburgh, Pennsylvania, espouses a philosophy that blends a mystical form of Islam with democracy. He is a former Erdogan ally turned bitter foe who has been put on trial in absentia in Turkey, where the government has labeled his movement a terrorist organization. He strongly denies the government’s charges.

U.S. 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.

Soguel reported from Istanbul.

17 July 2016 Sunday

In capitals across Europe Saturday, people took the streets to protest Friday’s failed military coup attempt in Turkey.

In France, just days after suffering the Nice extremist attack, more than 500 people gathered at the Place de la Republique in Paris to protest the attempt to overthrow Turkey’s democratically elected government.

Demonstrators carrying a large Turkish flag chanted slogans such as “Everything for the country” and “Martyrs don’t die.”

In Brussels, people outside the Turkish Embassy chanted slogans against the failed coup. Hasan Koyuncu and Şevket Temiz, ethnic Turkish members of the Belgian Parliament, also attended the demonstrations in the EU capital to show their support.

Thousands of people also gathered in Berlin to protest the coup attempt. People sang the Turkish national anthem and chanted slogans against Fetullah Gulen, leader of the FETO/PDY extremist group, which has been blamed for the coup.

In the U.K., hundreds of people gathered in London to protest the coup. Not only the expatriate community but people from Syria, Egypt, and Pakistan also came out to show their support to the Turkish nation.

People carrying signs reading “Hands off Turkey” and “Stop the Gulenist extremism” waved Turkish flags. Many drivers honked their horns to show their support.

The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE) also issued a statement condemning the attack, saying that it “stands in full solidarity with the noble Turkish people and their democratically elected government.”

It added, “FIOE also salute the steadfastness of all components of the Turkish population, the variant civil and political forces that united in the night of honor, in the face of the brutal coup.”

On Friday night, renegade elements within Turkey’s military attempted to stage a coup against the government.

Although the coup was soon put down by the country’s legitimate authorities and security apparatus, some 160 people were martyred in the violence, according to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

The government has said the coup bid was organized by followers of U.S.-based preacher Fetullah Gulen, who is accused of a longstanding campaign to overthrow the government through supporters within the Turkish state, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/headlines/175066/thousands-across-europe-protest-attempted-coup.

July 16, 2016

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Rather than toppling Turkey’s strongman president, a failed military coup that left more than 250 dead appears to have bolstered Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s immediate grip on power and boosted his popularity.

Tens of thousands marched through the streets in half a dozen Turkish cities late Saturday, waving flags and singing songs in an emotional outpouring of support for the long-time leader as security forces rounded up military personnel it branded coup supporters and launched a purge of judges seen as government opponents.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the perpetrators of Friday’s failed coup “will receive every punishment they deserve,” and the government said it would take steps toward extraditing a U.S.-based cleric it accused of fomenting the uprising.

The government threat of further crackdowns raised concerns over the future of democracy in Turkey, which has long prided itself in its democratic and secular traditions despite being in a tumultuous region swept by conflict and extremism.

The coup attempt began late Friday with tanks rolling into the streets of the capital, Ankara, and Istanbul as Erdogan was enjoying a seaside vacation. Explosions and gunfire erupted throughout the night.

It quickly became clear, however, that the military was not united in the effort to overthrow the government. In a dramatic iPhone interview broadcast on TV, Erdogan urged his supporters into the streets to confront the troops and tanks, and forces loyal to the government began reasserting control.

The unrest claimed at least 265 lives, according to a tally compiled from official statements. Yildirim said 161 people were killed and 1,440 wounded in the process of putting down the coup attempt. Turkey’s acting chief of the general staff, Gen. Umit Dundar said at least 104 “coup plotters” had died.

Before the weekend’s chaos, Turkey — a NATO member and key Western ally in the fight against the Islamic State group — had been wracked by political turmoil that critics blamed on Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule. He has shaken up the government, cracked down on dissidents, restricted the news media and renewed fighting with Kurdish rebels.

By Saturday afternoon, when tensioned eased, an atmosphere of celebration broke around as Turks answered official calls to rally in the squares to protect Turkish democracy. Thousands gathered in major cities singing and waving Turkish flags while others held prayers in support of Erdogan and chanted “God is great.”

In Istanbul, crowds gathered at Taksim Square, where a man stood on an iconic monument with a Turkish flag draped on his chest. Government supporters marched through Ankara as cars honked in apparent approval. Some gathered outside parliament and amid the burnt cars outside the presidential palace. One man took a selfie with a Turkish police officer standing atop an abandoned tank.

“We are here for democracy, so the country lasts,” retired soldier Nusret Tuzak said at the Ankara gathering. By late Saturday afternoon, flights had resumed into Istanbul’s international airport after being halted for nearly 24 hours. Mostly national carriers were flying into Istanbul, but other airlines preferred to wait another day to test the precarious security situation. Late Saturday, the usually buzzing airport was eerily quiet with some stranded travelers sitting on the floors of the largely empty terminals.

In an usual show of unity, Turkey’s four main political parties released a joint declaration during an extraordinary parliamentary meeting Saturday, denouncing the coup attempt and claiming that any moves against the people or parliament will be met “with the iron will of the Turkish Grand National Assembly resisting them.”

Turkey’s NATO allies lined up to condemn the coup attempt. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged all sides to support Turkey’s democratically elected government.

Erdogan’s survival has turned him into a “sort of a mythical figure” and could further erode democracy in Turkey, said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish research program at The Washington Institute.

“It will allow him (Erdogan) to crack down on liberty and freedom of association, assembly, expression and media in ways that we haven’t seen before and find strong public support within the country,” he said.

Government forces arrested 2,839 accused coup supporters, Yildirim said. Dundar, the general, said the plotters were mainly officers from the Air Force, the military police and armored units. Anadolu Agency said the government dismissed 2,745 judges across Turkey. Two constitutional court judges were also detained over their alleged role in the coup attempt, according to a Turkish official, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity.

Officials accused the judges and the coup plotters of being loyal to moderate cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan has often accused of attempting to overthrow the government. Gulen, a staunch democracy advocate who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, is a former Erdogan ally turned bitter foe who has been put on trial in absentia in Turkey. At a news conference in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, Gulen strongly denied any role in or knowledge of the coup.

Ankara recently classified his movement as a terrorist organization. Washington, however, has never found any evidence particularly compelling previously against the cleric. In a televised speech Saturday, Erdogan called on the United States to extradite Gulen, saying Turkey had never turned back any extradition request for “terrorists” by the United States. A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations, said Turkey was preparing a formal extradition application.

U.S. 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.” Gulen himself condemned the coup.

“Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force,” he said. “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.”

Fadi Hakura, a Turkey expert at the Chatham House think tank in London, said the attempted coup appeared to have been “carried out by lower-ranking officers.” “Their main gripe seems to have been President Erdogan’s attempt to transform his office into a powerful and centralized executive presidency,” Hakura said. “In the short term, this failed coup plot will strengthen President Erdogan.”

Turkey’s military staged three coups between 1960 and 1980 and pressured Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, a pious mentor of Erdogan, out of power in 1997. Turkey has allowed American jets to use its Incirlik air base to fly missions against the Islamic State group in neighboring Syria and Iraq. The Pentagon said U.S. warplanes stopped flying those missions from Incirlik after the Turkish government closed its airspace to military aircraft during the attempted coup. U.S. officials were working with Turkish officials to get permission to resume air operations as soon as possible.

Soguel reported from Istanbul. Emrah Gurel, Bram Janssen and Cinar Kiper in Istanbul, Mucahit Ceylan in Ankara and Jill Lawless in London also contributed.

By Daniel Uria

July 16, 2016

ANKARA, Turkey, July 16 (UPI) — Turkish government officials declared the attempted military coup in the country finished as nearly 3,000 soldiers were arrested.

According to the BBC, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called the coup a “black stain on Turkish democracy” and said 2,839 soldiers were arrested, at least 160 people were killed and 1,440 wounded.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also stated the government remained in control following the attempted coup which begun late Friday night as members of the nation’s military attempted to forcibly seize power in the capital, Ankara, and in Istanbul.

“In Turkey the army is not governing the state and they cannot, and this should be known by all,” said Erdogan who was vacationing in southwest Turkey when the coup began,according to USA Today. “The government is in control.”

It was also reported that soldiers who had taken over the Chief of General Staff Headquarters during the coup requested negotiations to surrender.

General Umit Dundar, who was newly appointed as the acting military chief, said 104 “coup plotters” were killed, as well as 41 police officers and 47 others.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg shared a tweet confirming all NATO personnel in Turkey remained safe.

“I have spoken to SACEUR Gen Scaparrotti. He confirms that all NATO personnel and units in Turkey are safe and secure,” he wrote.

Erdogan blamed the coup on a “parallel structure,” a term used by the government to reference followers of U.S. based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen

Gulen denied any involvement, saying he condemned “in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey.”

Erdogan also said that “rogue elements” in the military involved in the coup would “pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey” and “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.”

The BBC reported Greek police said a military helicopter carrying eight men, mostly in military uniforms and believed to be part of the coup, landed in the country seeking asylum.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey demanded the “eight treacherous officers who fled to Greece by helicopter” be extradited.

Greece arrested the eight men after they landed and an official said they will appear before a Greek prosecutor on Sunday.

Turkish television reported about 2,745 judges and five High Judiciary Court Board were removed from duty as a result of the failed coup.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2016/07/16/Turkish-officials-declare-coup-over-nearly-3000-soldiers-arrested/5641468668407/.

16 July 2016 Saturday

Turkish authorities on Saturday imposed a security lockdown at the Incirlik air base in the southern province of Adana used by US and other coalition forces in the fight against fighters in Syria, the US consulate said.

“Local authorities are denying movements on to and off of Incirlik Air Base. The power there has also been cut,” the US consulate in Adana said in a message after an coup attempt aimed at toppling the government was thwarted by the authorities.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/politics/175049/turkey-authorities-impose-lockdown-at-incirlik-air-base.

16 July 2016 Saturday

Turkey’s top judicial board has suspended 2,745 judges, including 541 court of first instance judges and 2,204 judicial court judges, over Friday’s attempted coup.

The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) also decided to terminate the membership of five of its members after the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office’s decision to detain them. Four have been remanded into custody.

Forty-eight members of the Council of State linked to the FETO/PDY terrorist organization were also remanded into custody, and out of 140 Court of Appeal members detained who were linked to the FETO/PDY, 11 were remanded Saturday.

Friday night saw military elements make a “vile” attempt to overthrow Turkey’s elected government, according to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Around 160 people were martyred in the ensuing violence.

Some 2,839 military personnel involved in the coup attempt have been arrested, and 20 pro-coup soldiers, including some senior officers, were killed in Friday night’s attempt to overthrow the government.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/175050/turkeys-top-judicial-board-suspends-2745-judges.

16 July 2016 Saturday

Indonesian and Malaysian lawmakers have voiced support for democracy in Turkey after an attempted military coup.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry expressed concern Saturday over the situation in Turkey, as well as hope that the principles of democracy would be upheld.

“Indonesia emphasizes the importance of respect for the constitution and the principle of democratization,” it said in a statement quoted by detik.com.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said “we are monitoring the situation in Turkey closely” in a post on his Twitter account.

Leaders of Malaysia’s opposition pact expressed “shock” at the attempted coup late Friday.

“This military attempt to force regime change in Turkey is a blatant disregard for the democratic process and totally undermines the will of the Turkish people,” the Hope Pact said in a statement, underlining its solidarity with Turkey’s president and people.

“We pray for the safety of the Turkish people who are now amassing on the streets as a show of support for democracy,” it underlined. “We also call for a swift end to this attempted military coup, and a calm and restrained response by all sides.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had earlier announced that a group within the Turkish military attempted an overthrow of the government.

Tanks drove around the streets of Istanbul late Friday, while warplanes and helicopters flew overhead in the capital Ankara, where bombs exploded at Parliament.

Some pro-coup soldiers attempted to take over state TV channel TRT, block CNN TURK broadcast and cut off TV networks at the ground station of satellite communications agency Turksat in Ankara’s Golbasi district.

Citizens responded to the action by the group, identified by Erdogan as the FETO/PDY terrorist organization, by taking to the streets across Turkey to protest.

The incidents have left at least 90 people dead and more than 1,000 others injured.

Erdogan declared the coup attempt over Saturday from Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, where he vowed to remain until the situation in the country returns to normal.

He also slammed United States-based preacher Fetullah Gulen, who is accused of leading a terrorist organization and attempting to infiltrate and overthrow the democratically-elected government in Turkey.

“It is enough the betrayal you have done to this nation,” Erdogan said, without mentioning Gulen’s name, and called on him to return to his country, where he would face trial.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/175029/indonesia-malaysian-mps-support-democracy-in-turkey.

16 July 2016 Saturday

There are claims that Turkey’s army has ordered the country’s troops stationed in neighboring Iraq to withdraw immediately from that country and return to garrisons in Turkey, media reports said.

The Turkish army’s decision came in the wake of the failed military coup in Turkey, the Arabic-language media outlets reported.

The Turkish army had sent hundreds of its troops to a military base in Northern Iraq on the pretext of training Kurdish forces to fight the ISIL terrorist group.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/175036/turkish-army-orders-troops-to-withdraw-from-iraq.

July 16, 2016

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Forces loyal to Turkey’s president quashed a coup attempt in a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire that left dozens dead Saturday. Authorities arrested thousands of people as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed those responsible “will pay a heavy price for their treason.”

The chaos capped a period of political turmoil in Turkey — a NATO member and key Western ally in the fight against the Islamic State group — that critics blame on Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule. He has shaken up the government, cracked down on dissidents, restricted the news media and renewed conflict with Kurdish rebels.

Pressure has also come from millions of refugees who have fled violence in neighboring Syria and Iraq, and a series of bloody attacks blamed on the Islamic State group and Kurdish rebels. Erdogan was on a seaside vacation when tanks rolled into the streets of Ankara and Istanbul. He flew home early Saturday and declared the coup to have failed.

The uprising appears not to have been backed by the most senior ranks of the military, and Turkey’s main opposition parties quickly condemned the attempted overthrow of the government. Gen. Umit Dundar, newly appointed as acting chief of the general staff, said the plotters were mainly officers from the Air Force, the military police and the armored units.

Prime Minister Benali Yildirim said 161 people were killed and 1,440 wounded in the overnight violence. He said 2,839 plotters were detained. A source at the office of the presidency, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, said the 161 toll “excludes assailants.”

Yildirim described the night as “a black mark on Turkish democracy” and said the perpetrators “will receive every punishment they deserve.” Turkey’s NATO allies lined up to condemn the coup. U.S. President Barack Obama urged all sides to support Turkey’s democratically elected government. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and called for respect for democracy.

The coup attempt began late Friday, with a military statement saying forces had seized control “to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for law and order to be reinstated.”

Fighter jets buzzed overhead, gunfire erupted outside military headquarters and vehicles blocked two major bridges in Istanbul. Soldiers backed by tanks blocked entry to Istanbul’s airport for a couple of hours before being overtaken by pro-government crowds carrying Turkish flags, according to footage broadcast by the Dogan news agency.

The military did not appear unified, as top commanders went on television to condemn the action and order troops back to their barracks. Erdogan, appearing on television over a mobile phone, had urged supporters into the streets to defend the government, and large crowds heeded his call.

People faced off with troops that had blocked the bridges over the Bosporus, linking the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. By early Saturday, the putsch appeared to have fizzled, as police, soldiers and civilians loyal to the government confronted coup plotters.

In images broadcast on CNN-Turk, dozens of soldiers walked among tanks with their hands held up, surrendering to government forces. Discarded gear was strewn on the ground. Some flag-waving people climbed onto the tanks.

Colonels and generals implicated in the rebellion were fired and loyal troops rescued the military chief who had been taken hostage at an air base on the outskirts of Ankara, the capital. Elsewhere, a Blackhawk military helicopter transporting seven Turkish military personnel and one civilian landed in the Greek city of Alexandroupolis, where the passengers requested asylum, according to Greece’s defense ministry. Turkey demanded their extradition.

Addressing large crowds after landing at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, Erdogan said of the plotters: “They have pointed the people’s guns against the people. The president, whom 52 percent of the people brought to power, is in charge. This government brought to power by the people is in charge.”

Fighting continued into the early morning, with the sounds of huge blasts echoing across Istanbul and Ankara, including at least one bomb that hit the parliament complex. Television footage showed broken glass and other debris strewn across a lobby leading to the assembly hall.

CNN-Turk said two bombs hit near the presidential palace, killing five people and wounding a number of others. Turkey is a key partner in U.S.-led efforts to defeat the Islamic State group, and has allowed American jets to use its Incirlik air base to fly missions against the extremists in nearby Syria and Iraq. A coup against the democratically elected government could have made it difficult for the United States to continue to cooperate with Turkey.

Erdogan’s Islamist government has also been accused of playing an ambiguous role in Syria. Turkey’s renewed offensive against Kurdish militants — who seek more autonomy and are implacable foes of IS — has complicated the fight against the Islamic State group.

Government officials blamed the coup attempt on a U.S.-based Islamist cleric, Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan has long accused the cleric and his supporters of attempting to overthrow the government. Gulen 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.

Fadi Hakura, a Turkey expert at the Chatham House think tank in London, said it was not clear who was behind the attempted coup, but it appeared to have been “carried out by lower-ranking officers — at the level of colonel.”

“Their main gripe seems to have been President Erdogan’s attempt to transform his office into a powerful and centralized executive presidency,” Hakura said. “I think in the short term this failed coup plot will strengthen President Erdogan, particularly in his drive to turn his office into a strong and centralized executive presidency,” Hakura added.

Turkey’s military staged three coups between 1960 and 1980 and pressured Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, a pious Muslim mentor of Erdogan, out of power in 1997. There have long been tensions between the military — which saw itself as the protector of the secular Turkish state — and Erdogan’s Islamic-influenced AKP party. Erdogan’s government has taken steps, including dismissals and prosecutions of high-ranking active and former officers for alleged coup plots, to bring the military to heel.

Soguel reported from Istanbul. Emrah Gurel and Cinar Kiper in Istanbul and Jill Lawless in London also contributed.