A faction in the Turkish military Friday night declared it had staged a coup and seized “full control” over this country of nearly 80 million.
On Friday night, soldiers suddenly seized two key bridges in Istanbul and jets took to the skies of the capital city of Ankara. Soon after, military forces seized control of the state-owned television network and forced an achor to read a script denouncing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an as a traitor.
Meanwhile Erdogan urged the public to take to the streets and defeat an attempt by “a minority” of the Turkish military to take power. He was unable to speak on the state television, which was under control of the military, and instead had to communicate over Facetime to CNN Turk, an opposition television channel.
“They will pay the price, the highest cost at the end,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan, who’s been on vacation on the Aegean coast, said he would return to the capital of Ankara shortly but that may be difficult to accomplish.
The Pentagon thinks the coup was attempted by a fairly small faction of the army, and was amateurishly executed, a senior U.S. military official told The Daily Beast. They expect it will be suppressed fairly quickly, but concede there’s still a lot that’s unknown about the mutineers. The official spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak about the incident publicly.
The military claimed it was taking power from the democratically elected president because he has grown increasingly authoritarian over the past 13 years in power and to stop a sustained terrorist threat from ISIS across the border in Syria. In June, an attack by an unknown terrorist group struck Istanbul’s international airport, killing 41.
In what it called “public statement number one,” the organizers of the coup declared that the aim of the uprising was to restore democracy in Turkey.
“The Turkish military forces, in order to protect the constitutional structure of democracy, human rights and in order to guarantee democracy and freedom in the country, to make the rule of law once again the leading force and to restore the stability that has been lost, has taken all control over the nation.
“All our international relations, and all our obligations will be upheld. We guarantee good relations with to all countries in the world.”
A Turkish state television presenter said that the military has declared martial law and imposed a curfew. The struggle turned violent as the state-run outlet reported military helicopters firing upon a TURKSAT satellite station and the Ankara Police headquarters. There were also reports of tanks firing on civilian protesters in Istanbul.
As the attempted coup unfolded, Turkey blocked social-media networks Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
Amid reports that the chief of staff of the Turkish military is being held at gunpoint by the coup organizers in Ankara, gunfire has been heard in what some government officials described as fighting between the Turkish military and the police.
In Taskim Square in central Istanbul, more than 300 people had gathered and the crowd was growing when police left and the military began firing. The Daily Beast saw at least four people shot.
The offices of Turkish state media channel TRT in Istanbul were evacuated earlier this evening, according to an employee there who spoke to The Daily Beast.