Published On: Sat, Jul 16th, 2016

Erdogan: Turkey coup bid ‘an act of treason’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared early on Saturday among a crowd of supporters at Istanbul’s main airport, footage broadcast on local media showed, hours after a dramatic attempt by an army faction to topple the government.

Erdogan’s arrival in Istanbul came after Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told broadcaster NTV on Saturday that the situation in Turkey was “largely under control”.

Speaking at a news conference, Erdogan said the attempt to push him from power was “an act of treason” and that those behind the plot would “pay a heavy price”.

He said said he would stay with his “people” and not go anywhere after flying back to Istanbul from Marmaris, a coastal city.

“Shortly after I left, I have been told they bombed those locations where I had been,” he told reporters. “I assumed they thought I was still there when they bombed those places.”

Speaking to thousands of supporters outside Ataturk Airport on Saturday morning, Erdogan said the coup plotters had pointed “the people’s guns against the people.

“The president, whom 52 percent of the people brought to power, is in charge,” Erdogan said. “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.”

As he spoke, live footage showed dozens of soldiers involved in the coup surrendering on one of the bridges across the Bosphorus in Istanbul, abandoning their tanks with their hands raised in the air.

Bombs dropped on Ankara

But there were still pockets of resistance in Istanbul and the capital Ankara, the Reuters news agency reported, quoting an official who said he did not expect them to last long.

In Ankara, jets dropped bombs over the Bestepe district, where the presidential palace is located, with plumes of black smoke seen rising early on Saturday, NTV reported.

There were also reports of an explosion at the parliament building in the capital.

Forty-two people were killed in Ankara, Turkish officials said, confirming an earlier report from the state-run Anadolu Agency. Seventeen of those killed were police officers, Anadolu said.

Erdogan said that the attempted coup was the work of supporters of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan has long accused of attempting to use his followers in the judiciary and military to overthrow the government.

Gulen condemned the bid to overthrow Turkey’s leader, saying “governments should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force”, according to a report by the DPA news agency.

Earlier, thousands of people had heeded a call from the president to take to the streets and protest against the attempted coup.

Yildirim said more than 120 people were arrested, and Erdogan said many were army officers.

The prime minister said the military had been ordered by the presidency to shoot down planes hijacked by those involved in the coup attempt and that jets had been scrambled.

Officials said fighter jets had shot down a helicopter used by the coup plotters over Ankara.

‘We will overcome this’

Late on Friday, sections of the army had officially declared a coup and martial law, saying they had “taken control of the country” as Istanbul’s main airport was closed and fighter jets were seen in the skies.

Turkey’s intelligence agency MIT was targeted by hijacked helicopters but the coup attempt was “foiled”, its spokesman told NTV television.

Yildirim also told NTV that a no-fly zone had been declared over Ankara.

The broadcaster also reported that nearly 50 soldiers had been arrested.

The coup attempt was launched when army factions blocked bridges, fighter jets were spotted in the skies and gunfire and loud explosions were heard in Istanbul, the country’s biggest city, and Ankara.

The headquarters of state-run broadcaster TRT World were taken over and a presenter read out a statement from the group behind the coup, which she later said she was forced to do at gunpoint.

“We know they have been acting outside the chain of command,” Cemalettin Hasimi, a government spokesman told Al Jazeera, referring to the sections of the army behind the coup attempt.

In Gaziantep, a city in the south, Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr reported that supporters of Erdogan had quickly taken to the streets shortly after he appeared on CNN Turk television urging them to do so. Cars could be seen streaming towards the airport, honking their horns.

“We will overcome this,” Erdogan had said, speaking on a video call to a mobile phone held up to the camera by a presenter.

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