Ankara | Thousands took to the streets of Turkey in support of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after authorities crushed a military coup that claimed at least 265 lives. After facing down the bloodiest challenge to his 13-year rule, Erdogan triumphantly addressed flag-waving supporters in Istanbul following Friday’s chaos in the strategic NATO member of 80 million people. The authorities blamed Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric who is Erdogan’s arch enemy, for the plot and lost no time in rounding up 2,839 soldiers over alleged involvement, amid global alarm over the extent of the retribution.
Turks woke up yesterday to television pictures showing dozens of soldiers surrendering after the failed coup, some with their hands above their head, others forced to the ground in the streets. The situation is completely under control, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said outside his Ankara offices, flanked by Turkey’s top general who had himself been taken hostage by the plotters. Describing the attempted coup as a black stain on Turkey’s democracy, Yildirim said 161 people had been killed in the night of violence and 1,440 wounded. General Umit Dundar, who stood in as acting chief of staff while Hulusi Akar was being held by the rebels, said 104 coup plotters has been killed.
Akar was later rescued in an operation that marked the end of the plotters’ hopes. During a night where power hung in the balance, supporters of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) defied the coup leaders’ orders of a curfew and flooded the streets to block the attempt to overthrow the regime. Yesterday, thousands of jubilant supporters again mobilised in response to Erdogan’s call to fill Turkey’s squares, massing in Taksim in central Istanbul, the president’s home district of Kisikli, Ankara’s Kizilay Square and in the coastal city of Izmir, AFP correspondents said.
Friday’s putsch bid began with rebel F-16 jets screaming low over rooftops in Ankara, soldiers and tanks taking to the streets and multiple explosions throughout the night in the capital as well as the biggest city Istanbul. Parts of parliament were turned to rubble after being hit by air strikes from rebel jets. Rebel troops also moved to block the two bridges across the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, culminating in a stand-off with an angry crowd. Turks have not seen such scenes since 1980 when the military led by general Kenan Evren ousted the government and many had no desire to revive these memories.