An attempted coup in Turkey was faltering on Saturday, hours after a faction of the military used tanks and helicopters in an ill-fated attempt to end the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Erdogan and Yildirim appeared on television soon after the coup was launched, declaring that the putsch was over and that they continued to be in charge.
However, gunfire, bomb explosions and military airstrikes continued in the capital, Ankara, despite repeated statements by government officials that the coup had been “repelled.” Gradually, though, government forces seemed to mostly reassert control and pockets of rebel soldiers started surrendering.
Reports indicate that fighting continues in Ankara even as the government has achieved the upper hand. Erdogan, who had been flown away from the capital to Istanbul, on Friday urged his supporters to pour out onto the streets to stop the coup. On Saturday, he urged them to remain on the streets until the situation normalizes.
Earlier, AFP cited NTV television as saying on Saturday that a fighter jet dropped bombs near the Turkish presidential palace in Ankara. Plumes of black smoke were seen rising over the Bestepe district where the palace is located, according to the TV.
A presidential source said Turkish F-16s were launching airstrikes against tanks outside the palace. Reuters cited CNN Turk as saying on Saturday that Turkish authorities shot down a military helicopter firing on the offices of state satellite operator Turksat.
A senior official said Turkish military headquarters were now held by pro-government forces, but small groups of rebel soldiers are still resisting. A second official said 29 colonels and five generals were removed from posts in the military amid the coup attempt.
A Turkish intelligence source told Reuters on Saturday that Turkey’s intelligence agency headquarters were attacked by military helicopters and heavy machine gun fire during the attempted military coup overnight, wounding at least three people.
The head of the agency, Hakan Fidan, was at a secure location throughout the events and was in constant contact with President Erdogan and Prime Minister Yildirim, the source said.
The intelligence agency was still working with the armed forces, the police and the government against the coup plotters in ongoing operations in Istanbul and Ankara in particular, the source said.
A coup begins
It all began when a faction of the Turkish military declared last night that it had fully seized control of the country and that Erdogan and Yildirim were no more in charge. A group calling itself the “Council for Peace in the Homeland” declared martial law and a curfew in the statement Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported a bomb explosion at the parliament building shortly afterwards.
Soldiers and tanks took to the streets late on Friday and multiple explosions rang out throughout the night in Ankara and Istanbul, the two biggest cities of the strategic NATO member country. Gunfire could be heard across the capital as military warplanes and helicopters were flying low over the city.
Commanders taken hostage
Meanwhile, Turkish military chief of staff, General Hulusi Akar, who was reported earlier to have been taken hostage by the coup plotters, has been rescued, a senior official said. Erdogan had earlier said he did not know the whereabouts of Akar, and Prime Minister Yildirim had appointed General Umit Dundar, the commander of the First Army, as the acting chief of military staff to cover Akar.
Dundar said later on Saturday that many military commanders have been taken hostage by rebel soldiers, raising the prospect of continued drama in the country. He also said that 104 putschists had been killed and another 90 people, comprising civilians and police officers, had been “martyred.” A total of 1,563 individuals have also been arrested in connection with the coup bid.
Early statements of coup failure
On Saturday morning, the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) said the coup attempt in the country has been “repelled” and the situation has been restored to “normal.”
Prime Minister Yildirim also announced in the early hours of Saturday morning that the situation was largely under control and that a no-fly zone was imposed over Ankara.