UPDATE ON TURKISH MILITARY COUP

11:00 P.M. UPDATE – Turkey has started off Saturday morning with two governments. At least, that is the way it looks as the Military is claiming that they are in control of all government agencies and will continue to honor all existing treaties. Meanwhile the formal government under the country’s Prime Minister is claiming that they are still in control and promise to arrest and punish the “small number” of military officers involved in the attempted coup.

But at the same time, the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking by cell phone to CNN Turk from an unknown location, vowed that Turkey would “overcome this invasion” and called on Turks to “gather in squares and see what this minority can do with their tanks and artillery against the people.” Erdogan went on to say that: “Throughout history those who make coups have been unsuccessful, and I absolutely believe that these will be unsuccessful as well,” Erdogan said, adding that the architects of the takeover attempt “will absolutely pay the price for this in heaviest manner.”

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Late Friday night the military issued a formal statement saying that the army had taken over “the entire management of the country to restore rule of law.” A military statement read on Turkish state TV announced that martial law had been imposed across the country and a curfew had been declared. The statement added that Turkey was now being run by a “peace council” and that a new constitution would be drawn up soon.

But the prevailing though on the coup is that it most likely has failed. That is the message that is coming out of Turkish media at this hour.

Turkey’s leaders said they have largely quelled an attempted military coup, after army officers claimed to have seized power in the country. There are still reports of armed clashes in major cities and tanks continue to blockade roads. There are reports of scrimmages between soldiers and police that have remained loyal to the civilian government. In addition, local media has reported that warplanes have carried out bombing attacks against the parliament in Ankara.

The target of the coup attempt, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, appeared on a local TV station via a video link and said he’s still in charge of the country. The President urged the public to take to the streets and public squares in a show of resistance to the coup. Mosques broadcast the same call from their minarets, and local television showed anti-coup crowds gathering in Istanbul, the largest city, and Ankara.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the situation was now largely under control, and top military leaders who weren’t involved in the uprising condemned it and were assisting the government regain total control. Turkey’s NATO allies have declared their support for the elected government.

But it the problem appears to be far from over. Clashes persisted around military headquarters in Ankara and massive explosions continued to rock the capital. It was confirmed that the legislature was hit by at least two airstrikes Friday evening.

The army faction behind the rebellion said in an e-mailed statement earlier that it had seized power to restore freedom and democracy. They briefly took over state-run TV to broadcast a declaration of martial law, saying the government had lost its legitimacy. The network appeared to have been restored to government control. But CNN-Turk, an affiliate of the U.S. news channel, said soldiers entered its headquarters in Istanbul.

“The coup attempt in Turkey seems backed by only a faction in the Turkish military and is unlikely to succeed,” said Jorge Benitez, a senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security in Washington. “The rest of the Turkish military, plus the intelligence services will keep Erdogan in power.”

The U.S. backed Erdogan and his government. The Obama administration has “absolute support” for the elected government of Turkey, its NATO ally, Secretary of State John Kerry said in an e-mailed statement. He said he’s spoken this evening with his Turkish counterpart to pledge his backing. President Barack Obama told Kerry that “all parties” in Turkey should support the government, the White House said.

Yildirim told NTV television that the police, traditionally closer to his government than the army, were ordered to use arms if necessary to secure government facilities. Earlier television footage showed police officers apparently being arrested by the army, and CNN Turk television said police fired at a military helicopter in Ankara. Seventeen police were killed in an aerial attack on an anti-terrorism force headquarters in Ankara, Anadolu reported.

Erdogan, who previously served as prime minister for more than a decade until 2014, has been accused by domestic opponents and human rights groups of becoming increasingly authoritarian and attempting to silence critics. He’s fought to transform the once largely ceremonial post of president and make it the main seat of power.

Under Erdogan, Turkey has also been drawn deeper into some of the region’s most intractable conflicts, especially in neighboring Syria. Islamic State militants based there have attacked Turkish cities and border posts, killing scores of people. A decades-old conflict with separatist Kurdish rebels in the southeast of the country has also been reignited after a three-year lull.

“The coup attempt is driven by multiple factors but mainly discontent with Erdogan himself, including his failure to protect the Turkish state from ISIS and failed Syrian policy,” Theodore Karasik, a Middle East analyst at Gulf State Analytics in Washington, said by e-mail. “Leading figures felt that their own positions in the military were in jeopardy.”

A new Update is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. EST.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

©2016 R. L. Grimes

 

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