Saturday, July 16, 2016

Turkey Detains Thousands of Military Personnel in Bid to Regain Control
New York Times
JULY 16, 2016

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s government rounded up thousands of military personnel on Saturday said to have taken part in an attempted coup, moving swiftly to re-establish control after a night of chaos and intrigue that left hundreds dead.

By noon, there were few signs that those who had taken part in the coup attempt were still able to challenge the government, and many declared the uprising a failure.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called the insurrection “a stain in the history of democracy” at a news conference on Saturday in Ankara, the capital. He raised the death toll in the clashes to 265, with 1,440 people wounded, and he said that 2,839 military personnel had been detained.

As the insurrection unfolded Friday night, beginning with the seizure of two bridges in Istanbul by military forces, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was not heard from for hours. He finally addressed the nation from an undisclosed location, speaking on his cellphone’s FaceTime app — a dramatic scene that seemed to suggest a man on the grip of losing power. But in the early hours of Saturday morning, he landed in Istanbul, a strong sign that the coup was failing.

Mr. Erdogan placed blame for the intrigue on the followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania, who was the president’s ally until a bitter falling out three years ago. Mr. Gulen’s followers were known to have a strong presence in Turkey’s police and judiciary, but less so in the military.

Speaking Saturday morning, Mr. Erdogan said, referring to Mr. Gulen: “I have a message for Pennsylvania: You have engaged in enough treason against this nation. If you dare, come back to your country.”

The cleric denied in an emailed statement that he had been involved in the coup attempt.

Mr. Erdogan also said that Turkish fighter jets had bombed tanks on the streets of Ankara, and that a military helicopter being used by the coup plotters had been shot down.

There was also a battle early Saturday morning at Turkey’s main intelligence headquarters in Ankara, which was later secured by government forces, and a Turkish official said the intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, had been taken to a secure location.

In a news conference on Saturday, Turkey’s top military officer, Gen. Umit Dundar, the acting head of the General Staff, said that “the coup attempt was rejected by the chain of command immediately.”

“The people have taken to the streets and voiced their support for democracy,” he said, adding that “the nation will never forget this betrayal.”

As Turkey began waking up after a long and in many ways surreal evening, it appeared that the elected government had re-established control. But many questions remained unanswered, including who exactly was behind the plot and what the longer-term fallout would be to the political system of Turkey, a NATO ally and important partner to the United States in the fight against the Islamic State.

Much of the violence overnight was in Ankara, where different branches of the security forces fought one another over control of government buildings, including the Parliament building, where several explosions were reported.

The state-run Anadolu Agency reported that 1,563 soldiers had been arrested. Television footage showed some soldiers, naked from the waist up, being put on a bus in Istanbul.

Early Saturday morning, soldiers surrendered on a bridge that traverses the Bosporus, one of two that the military shut down as the coup attempt began Friday evening. Footage showed abandoned military clothing and helmets along the bridge. The government also moved on a military school in Istanbul, arresting dozens.

Turkey has a long history of military involvement in politics — there have been three coups since 1960 — and as the country became deeply polarized in recent years between supporters of Mr. Erdogan’s Islamist government and those loyal to Turkey’s secular traditions, many wondered if the military would intervene. Some, quietly, had even hoped they would.

But once it came, people in the country, even those bitterly opposed to Mr. Erdogan, seemed to have no desire for a return to military rule. Turks across the political spectrum, including the main opposition parties that represent secular Turks, nationalists and Kurds, opposed the coup. So did many top generals in the armed forces, highlighting that the attempt appeared not to have had deep support, even in the military.

Safak Timur contributed reporting.

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