Turkish Coup Attempt Fails, Erdogan Vows Revenge

Turkish Coup Attempt Fails, Erdogan Vows RevengeTurkish Coup Attempt Fails, Erdogan Vows Revenge

Forces loyal to Turkey's president quashed a coup attempt in a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire that left dozens dead on Saturday.

Authorities arrested thousands of people as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed those responsible "will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey".

The chaos capped a period of political turmoil in Turkey–a NATO member and key western ally in the fight against the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group–which critics blamed on President Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian rule, AP reported.  

He has shaken up the government, cracked down on dissidents and opposition media and renewed conflict in the mainly Kurdish areas of the southeast.

Turkey has also been under strain from millions of refugees from the conflict in neighboring Syria and a series of deadly attacks blamed on the Islamic State group and Kurdish rebels.

Erdogan was on a seaside vacation when tanks moved into the streets of Ankara and Istanbul but flew home early Saturday.

Gen. Umit Dundar, the newly appointed acting chief of the general staff, said officers from the Air Force, the military police and the armored units were mainly involved in the attempt.

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.

Turkish Prime Minister Benali Yildirim said 161 people had been killed and 1,440 wounded in the overnight violence. He said 2,839 plotters had been detained.

Yildirim described the night as "dark stain for Turkish democracy" and said the perpetrators "will receive every punishment they deserve."

Turkey's NATO allies lined up to condemn the coup. US President Barack Obama urged all sides to support Turkey's democratically elected government.

The coup attempt began late Friday, with a statement from the military saying it 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."

*** Call for Defense

Erdogan, appearing on television over a mobile phone, had urged supporters into the streets to defend the government and large crowds heeded the 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 out, as police, soldiers and civilians loyal to the government confronted coup plotters.

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.

Addressing large crowds after landing at Ataturk airport, Erdogan said of the plotters: "They have pointed the people's guns against the people. The president, whom 52% of the people brought to power, is in charge. This government brought to power by the people is in charge. They won't succeed as long as we stand against them by risking everything."

Yildirim called all legislators for an emergency meeting onSaturday, Anadolu reported.

*** Blame on Gulen

Turkey is a key partner in US-led efforts to defeat the IS 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 make it difficult for the United States to continue to cooperate with Turkey.

Government officials blamed the coup attempt on the US-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen.

Yildirim pinned blame on the "parallel terrorist organization"—a term used by authorities to describe Gulen's movement.

Erdogan has long accused the cleric and his supporters of attempting to overthrow the government.

The cleric 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.