Turkey recovers after coup attempt that claims 265 lives

  • 17/07/2016
Turkish flags are waved at a demonstration against the failed attempted coup in Turkey, outside the Turkish embassy in Berlin (AAP)
Turkish flags are waved at a demonstration against the failed attempted coup in Turkey, outside the Turkish embassy in Berlin (AAP)

The death toll from Turkey's failed coup, where a military faction took control of tanks and helicopters in an attempt to overthrow the government, has risen to 265, a Turkish official says.

The toll included 161 mostly civilians and police officers, and 104 coup supporters, the official said.

Turkish authorities have now detained the commander of the Second Army in connection with Saturday's attempted military takeover, Anadolu news agency reports.

General Adem Huduti is the most senior officer to be apprehended so far following the attempted intervention that killed 194 people.

The Second Army, based in Malatya, protects Turkey's borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The Turkish military announced late Friday that it was seizing power to restore order.

The faction of the armed forces which tried to overthrow the government used tanks and attack helicopters. Some strafed the headquarters of Turkish intelligence and parliament in the capital, Ankara, and others seized a major bridge in Istanbul.

Aerial bombings, military blockades and clashes between mobs and armed forces were reported across Turkey overnight, but the government has since largely quelled the uprising and arrested more than 1500 military personnel.

Forces loyal to the government fought on Saturday to crush the remnants of the coup which crumbled after crowds answered President Tayyip Erdogan's call to take to the streets and dozens of rebels abandoned their tanks.

Erdogan appeared to accuse the plotters of trying to kill him and said he would purge the armed forces, which in the past have staged a number of successful coups, although not for more than 30 years.

"They will pay a heavy price for this," he said.

"This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army."

Later, the presidency warned on Twitter that another uprising could be staged at any time.

Turkish authorities had detained about 1500 members of the armed forces with many more likely, officials said.

Turkish Airlines has resumed flights from Istanbul's international airport, following a failed coup attempt while some foreign carriers cancelled weekend flights.

A spokesman for Turkish Airlines said flights had now returned to their normal schedule from Europe's third largest hub, though delays were to be expected.

The closure of Istanbul's Ataturk Airport late on Friday had caused the diversion of 35 airplanes and cancelled 32 flights, Turkish Airlines chairman Ilker Ayci told broadcaster CNN Turk.

The attempted coup follows a series of bombings that hit Turkey this year, including a suicide attack in June that killed 45 people at Istanbul's main airport.

They have weighed on international travel to the country.

The number of foreign visitors to Turkey fell by 28 per cent in April, data showed on Friday - the biggest drop in 17 years - signalling more pain for Turkey's weak tourism industry and economy.

"This coup was obviously planned quite well but using a playbook from the 1970s," said Gareth Jenkins, a researcher and writer on military affairs based in Istanbul.

It was more like Chile in 1973, or Ankara in 1980 than a modern Western state in 2016, he said.

The rebels struck on a weekend when the president was out of town at a holiday resort - but they failed to capture any of the ruling AK Party leaders or to shut down private television, mobile phone signals or social media networks.

That enabled Erdogan and his aides swiftly to call supporters into the streets to resist the coup.

Their biggest handicap, said Turkish analyst Sinan Ulgen of the Carnegie Europe think tank, was that they acted outside the military chain of command and hence lacked sufficient resources to take control of key levers of power.

The rebels bungled an attempt to silence CNN Turk, jointly owned by Turner Entertainment Systems of the United States and Dogan Yayin Holding.

When the station came back on air, anchorwoman Nevsin Mengu and general manager Erdogan Aktas described the mood of the young soldiers.

"These young soldiers had only fear in their eyes and no sign of devotion or determination," Mengu said.

"They asked us to go offline but we said it was not doable. They didn't know how to do it so our empty studio was live on TV for the whole time before we regained control."

A successful overthrow of Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, would have marked one of the biggest shifts in the Middle East in years, transforming a major US ally while war rages on its border.

However, a failed coup attempt could still destabilise a NATO member that lies between the European Union and the chaos of Syria, with Islamic State bombers targeting Turkish cities and the government also at war with Kurdish separatists.

DPA / Reuters