Defiant Turkish civilians reclaimed the country from their own military after helping to end a coup by the army to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who called on people to remain on the streets today over fears over a fresh uprising.
Ordinary Turks confronted rifle-wielding soldiers, climbed atop tanks and laid in front of military vehicles in an effort to take back control of the country, ignoring a curfew issued by coup plotters designed to allow the army to bring down the government unopposed.
President Erdogan called on people to take to the streets, leading to reports of groups of soldiers surrendering at several key locations in Ankara and Istanbul, including Bosphorus Bridge, where 100 rebels laid down their arms and submitted themselves to advancing civilians and police officers.
This morning the President used Twitter to call on supporters to prevent any additional military action, adding: ‘We should keep on owning the streets no matter at what stage because a new flare-up could take place at any moment.’
Some 104 plotters were killed after a coup attempt to bring down the Turkish government, while 160 people – at least 41 of them police and 47 civilians – fell as ‘martyrs’.
Throughout the night, supporters of Erdogan threw themselves in front of tanks at key landmarks to prevent the military from maintaining a stranglehold on the country, notably outside Ataturk airport in Istanbul, where some civilians lodged themselves under the wheels of tanks to stop them from advancing.
More than 2,800 rebels have been detained after their failed military coup that killed at least 250 and wounded more than 1,500, with Erdogan vowing revenge for the bloody uprising.
The President made his triumphant return back to Istanbul after his forces quelled the coup on Friday evening, as he warned that the members of the military behind the plot to oust him would pay a ‘heavy price for their treason’.
The Greek police ministry said a Turkish military helicopter landed in Greece this morning and eight men on board, thought to be senior coup plotters, have requested political asylum. Turkey has asked for the men, made up of seven soldiers and one civilian, to be extradited back to the country.
The rebel army faction – who call themselves the ‘Peace Council’ – said they were trying to overthrow the government to ‘protect human rights’ and restore democracy from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, AKP, which has repeatedly faced criticism from human rights groups and Western allies over its brutal crackdowns on anti-government protesters.
However, Erdogan has blamed his old scapegoat, Fethullah Gulen for orchestrating the uprising. Muslim cleric Gulen, the president’s rival who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, U.S. as the head of a billion dollar religious movement, has often been blamed for political unrest in Turkey.
The five hours of chaos began when two busloads of soldiers burst into the headquarters of the state-run TRT news agency, taking news off the air and replacing it with a stream of weather forecasts.
After launching the coup, the Turkish military imposed a curfew on civilians telling them to stay in their homes, but Erdogan called on supporters to ignore the order and take to the streets, which is thought to have caused the army to relinquish control.
After the uprising was crushed in the early hours of Saturday morning, Erdogan told the gathered masses at Ataturk Airport that those loyal to Gulen had ‘penetrated the Armed Forces and the police, among other government agencies, over the past 40 years’.
Up to 100 rebel soldiers surrendered on Bosphorus Bridge after their failed uprising. At least 2,863 connected have been arrested in connection with the dramatic coup which lasted approximately five hours.
New British foreign secretary Boris Johnson said on Twitter that he has spoken to Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu following the attempted military coup, adding: ‘I underlined UK support for the democratic elected government and institutions.’
Explosions and gunfire erupted in Istanbul and Ankara on Friday night during the coup which killed at least 250 people in the army’s bid to overthrow the Islamic government.
Elsewhere troops opened fire on civilians attempting to cross the river Bosporus in Istanbul in protest to the military coup, while a bomb exploded at the parliament building according to the state’s press agency as the security situation in the country becomes more perilous.
Colonel Muharrem Kose reportedly led the Turkish military forces in the uprising.
Kose had recently been kicked out of the army, from his position as head of the military’s legal advisory department, over his links to Gulen. He was killed during the clashes with Erdogan’s supporters, sources report.
As military took to the streets, Erdogan had urged his supporters to ignore a curfew and take back control of the country.
Tanks and armoured personnel carriers tried to seize strategic points in Istanbul and Ankara but were faced down by unarmed civilians who lay down in front of the heavy armour.
Police special forces headquarters was also hit and was razed to the ground. Other witnesses reported attack helicopters firing machine guns in the capital Ankara in a bid to depose the Islamic government.
There were also reports that a Turkish Air Force F-16 had shot down a Sikorsky helicopter over Ankara. The government claimed the jet destroyed the helicopter which had been ‘hijacked by coup plotters’.
In Takism square, around 30 rebel soldiers surrendered following a gun battle with police loyal to Erdogan. A number of F-16 fighter jets had screamed across the square at low level blasting the area with a sonic boom.
During the night, both the civilian government and the military claimed they were in control of the country, with reports of sporadic gunfire and explosions.
In a statement, the army faction said that they took action ‘to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for the law and order to be reinstated’.
The Turkish military has also long seen its role as safeguarding Turkey’s secularist agenda, and has staged numerous coup’s over the last 60 years when it feels the government’s stance is moving too far away from that.
By: ALEXANDER ROBERTSON
Photos By: Getty Images & Reuters