ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s armed forces said it “fully seized control” of the country Friday as explosions and gunfire erupted in the capital. Turkey’s president remained defiant and called on people to take to the streets to show support for his embattled government.
Turks appeared to heed that call early Saturday taking to the streets of Izmir and Istanbul waving Turkish flags, according to television footage. Crowds also began gathering in the main square in the capital, Ankara. The Dogan news agency reported that soldiers fired on a group of people trying to cross the Bosporus bridge to protest the attempted coup, and that some people have been hurt.
A loud explosion was heard in the capital, Ankara,
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an interview over FaceTime with the CNN Turk, dismissed the military action as “an attempt at an uprising by a minority within our armed forces.” His office declined to disclose his whereabouts, saying only that he was in a secure location.
“I’m making a call out to my people. … Let us gather in our squares, at our airports as the people and let that minority group come upon as with their tanks and artillery and do whatever they wish to do,” Erdogan said.
A NATO official at alliance headquarters in Brussels told The Associated Press early Saturday that “we’re following events closely,” but said he had no other comment. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements.
Nothing in NATO’s founding 1949 Washington Treaty says anything about intervening in the internal or political affairs of an alliance member, and Turkey kept its NATO membership following past military coups.
The action began Friday night, with fighter jets buzzing overhead, gunfire erupting outside military headquarters and vehicles blocking two major bridges in Istanbul.
The military said it seized control “to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for the law and order to be reinstated.”
“All international agreements and commitments will remain. We pledge that good relations with all world countries will continue,” the military said in the unnamed statement.
Soldiers blocked entry to Istanbul’s main Ataturk Airport, where four tanks were stationed, according to the private Dogan news agency. Two other tanks and a military vehicle were stationed in front of the VIP terminal. Dogan said the soldiers had entered the tower and stopped all flights.
Turkey’s state-run news agency said military helicopters have also attacked the headquarters of TURKSAT satellite station on the outskirts of Ankara and the Ankara police headquarters.
A dozen tanks were seen moving moving toward a palace used by the prime minister and deputy prime ministers. When a car tried to stop one of the tanks, the tank rammed through the vehicle. Those in the car escaped.
Erdogan told CNN Turk he didn’t believe the coup would succeed, adding: “There is absolutely no chain of command here. Right now the chain of command has been put on hold.”
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that a group within the military has engaged in what appeared to be an attempted coup.
Yildirim told private NTV television: “it is correct that there was an attempt,” when asked if there was a coup. Yildirim didn’t provide details, but said Turkey would never allow any “initiative that would interrupt democracy.”
“We are focusing on the possibility of an attempt (coup),” Yildirim said. “There was an illegal act by a group within the military that was acting out of the chain of military command. Our people should know that we will not allow any activity that would harm democracy.”