Many high-ranking Turkish officials were detained on Saturday as the civilian government reasserted its authority across the country.
The previous night left 265 dead and some 1,440 injured as “a group within the military” rebelled against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his administration. The soldiers took tanks to the streets of Istanbul and Ankara, blocked bridges over the Bosphorus and other key traffic points, and used military aircraft to bomb the parliament building. The pro-coup pilots also flew army F-16 low over Ankara, setting off car alarms and performing aerial acrobatics. Gunfire was reported from several locations in both cities, and a top general was taken hostage.
The rebel troops also entered several television studios, saying they rose up against Erdogan to protect democratic order and human rights. They announced martial law.
Soon, however, the tide began to turn against the coup supporters. During a video call broadcasted live on television, Erdogan invited his voters to defy the ban and come out in the streets against the military. All parliamentary parties condemned the putsch attempt and foreign governments lined up behind the civilian cabinet.
Top army commanders from different branches appeared on television together to show that rebels were a minority. Erdogan landed in Istanbul, greeted by a crowd of supporters, where he accused the coup plotters of “treason” and vowed they would pay a “very heavy price.” He accused moderate cleric Fethullah Gulen of being behind the coup. Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, denied the accusation and condemned the mutineers.
As the night wore on, first reports of police arresting rebelling soldiers started to arrive. Others were blocked or attacked by angry crowds. Larger groups of soldiers soon started to surrender.
On Saturday morning, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced that “the situation is completely under control” accompanied by the army commander who had been taken hostage.
The government immediately started purging the army, arresting over 2,800 soldiers for their role in the coup. The officials detained two out of four army division generals and two Constitutional Court judges, along with ten members of Turkey’s top judicial council. Almost 2,750 judges were fired for their alleged links to the coup leaders.
Erdogan asks US to deliver Gulen
Addressing a crowd in Istanbul, President Erodogan once again accused Gulen and his followers of running a “parallel state.” The moderate cleric, one-time Erdogan’s ally, has lived in the US for the last 17 years.
Erdogan said he had warned President Barack Obama that Gulen was trying to destabilize Turkey.
“I told you that he was engaged in coup plots but I was not listened to,” Erdogan said. “Now today after the coup I say it again. Deliver this man who lives in Pennsylvania to Turkey.”
Other Turkish officials said that Ankara was preparing an extradition demand for Gulen. Later on Saturday, Turkey’s labor minister Suleyman Soylu went a step further, suggesting that the US government had supported the coup. In a separate comment, Prime Minister Yildirim said that any country that stands by Gulen would be considered at war with Turkey.
In a Saturday interview, Gulen once again denied involvement in the coup, and suggested that it could be staged by Erdogan himself.
Kerry lashes out
Commenting on the issue, Secretary of State John Kerry said the US was willing to mull over the extradition request.
The US “would invite the government of Turkey, as we always do, to present us with any legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny,” Kerry said. “And the United States will accept that and look at it and make judgments about it appropriately.”
Kerry also promised US support in probing the putsch in a phone call with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, according to State Department spokesman John Kirby.
However, Kerry also said that “public insinuations or claims about any role by the United States in the failed coup attempt are utterly false and harmful to our bilateral relations,” according to Kirby.