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Erdogan Denies Turkish Military In Control

Turkish military block access to the Bosphorus bridge in Istanbul.
Turkish military block access to the Bosphorus bridge in Istanbul.

Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan said in a CNN interview that he is still in power and will put down an attempted military coup. He called on citizens to "take to the streets" to support his government.

"I certainly believe that the coup plotters will not succeed," Erdogan told CNN Turk television early July 16, speaking via mobile phone in his first reaction to the move by the Turkish armed forces.

"I urge the Turkish people to convene at public squares and airports. I never believed in a power higher than the power of the people."

Erdogan said he was still president and Turkey's commander in chief, promising that plotters would pay a "very heavy price."

Erdogan aides said he was in a secure location, but some reports said he was trying to return to Istanbul from Marmaris on the Turkish coast where he was on holiday.

After Erdogan spoke, groups of people marched in various quarters of Istanbul and Izmir against the coup, some shouting "Allah Akhbar," or "Praise Allah."

The private Dogan news agency reported that some protesters attempted to cross Istanbul's closed Bosporus bridge but were fired on by soldiers, injuring some.

Dogan reported that tanks could be seen deployed outside the parliament building in the capital Ankara, where strong blasts were heard, jets buzzed overhead, and fighting had broken out in the streets.

Turkey's state-run news agency reported that military helicopters have also attacked the headquarters of the TURKSAT satellite station on the outskirts of Ankara and the Ankara police headquarters.

Dozens of tanks were seen moving toward a palace that is now used by the prime minister and deputy prime ministers. A civilian car tried to stop one of the tanks, but it rammed through the vehicle as those in the car escaped.

Erdogan's defense and interior ministers called on members of the armed services to stay loyal to the government and fight what they described as a "minority" faction attempting to overthrow it.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yilidirm said on Twitter that security forces would retaliate against the coup and that everything necessary would be done, even if that meant fatalities.

He said sieges were under way at some important buildings, but urged people to remain calm and said acts against democracy would not be tolerated.

Erdogan's rebuttal and the reports of fighting came after the Turkey's military had said it "fully seized control" of running the country in a bid to protect democratic order and to maintain human rights, and state television announced that the military had declared martial law and a curfew.

The military’s claim of control over the country was made in a statement carried by the Dogan News Agency and Turkish television broadcasts late on July 15.

People withdrawing their money from ATMs in Istanbul.
People withdrawing their money from ATMs in Istanbul.

The statement said all of Turkey’s existing foreign relations would be maintained and that the rule of law would be a top priority.

An announcer speaking on state TRT television said the military had declared martial law and a curfew, news agencies reported

Meanwhile, the state-run Anadolu News Agency reports that senior members of Turkey’s military have been taken hostage at military headquarters in Istanbul -- including the Turkish chief of military staff.

Earlier, Yildirim said part of Turkey's military was taking action without following the chain of command in an attempt to seize power.

NTV quoted Yildirim as saying that a military coup attempt was under way “by part of the military.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reported gunfire in Ankara and the deployment of military jets and helicopters that were flying at low altitudes over the Turkish capital.

On Twitter, some Ankara residents said they heard explosions and gunfire in the city before widespread reports that major social networks were inaccessible.

Blocking The Bridges

The first reports of action by the military faction came from Istanbul, when members of the Turkish army used military vehicles to block off both of the Bosphorus bridges linking the European continent with Asia.

Later, army tanks were deployed at the entrance of Istanbul's Ataturk Airport.

Shortly after that development, all flights in and out Ataturk Airport were cancelled.

Turkey’s army has been methodically marginalized during the last 13 years under President Erdogan’s leadership of the country.

A Turkish security officer on the side of the road in Istanbul.
A Turkish security officer on the side of the road in Istanbul.

Analysts say Erdogan has long considered the army as a potentially dangerous adversary.

In recent months, steps taken by Erdogan’s to sideline his political opponents in the country have made it possible for Turkey’s military leadership to have a more important role over the Turkish president’s policies.

That has allowed Turkey’s military – which has forced four civilian governments from power since 1960 -- to reemerge as important player in the country’s politics alongside of Erdogan.

In May, Erdogan forced the previous Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu from power and replaced him with Yildirim, who is from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Since then, some former military officers and security analysts have warned that elements in the Turkish military want to stop Erdogan’s growing strength and create a system of checks-and-balances on the presidency.

Speculation about a military coup in Turkey had been rampant in late March before Davutoglu was forced from power.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and Dogan News Agency