Turkish President Returns to Istanbul After Attempted Coup

Attempted coup rocks Turkey_02755921-159532

A coup was attempted in Turkey Friday with a faction of the military taking over state TV, imposing martial law and a curfew and reportedly attacking the police headquarters in the capital of Ankara, according to American and foreign officials.

There were also at least two blasts reported near the entrance to parliament and no immediate word of casualties. The entrance to the building appears damaged.

A total of 120 soldiers have been arrested so far following the coup attempt, said Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

Late Friday night, the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, returned to Istanbul after going to an undisclosed location and vowed that those who carried out the coup will “pay.” Earlier, he urged supporters to take to the streets in defiance.

 Erdogan called the coup a “gift from God” because it will help Turkey clean out the military from the “members of this gang.” The timing of the coup was “meaningful,” because the military will start meetings in the beginning of August, and those who staged the coup were afraid of the decisions that would be made at those meetings, Erdogan said.

“This is not old Turkey,” he said. “This is new Turkey.”

In Istanbul at least six people are dead and 100 injured from the clashes that resulted from the coup attempt, a source at Istanbul Haydarpasa Hospital told ABC News. Video shows Turkish military firing over hundreds of protesters’ heads as they approached a tank on a highway.

It was not clear who was behind the attempted coup, but a broadcaster for state TV read a letter from a group calling itself the “Turkish peace council” saying that martial law is being imposed. The news anchor says media personnel were handcuffed and forced to read what they were given.

CNN Turk has said that soldiers entered their building, the Dogan Media Center, which also houses the newspaper Hurriyet and DHA, a broadcaster. Shouting could be heard in the background as an image of the studio broadcast on TV.

Late The Turkish Chief of Army has been rescued from detention and is back on duty after a military operation, Yildirim said. Those that held him hostage have been “eliminated,” Yildirim said.

Yildirim also said that security forces were doing what is necessary to resolve the situation.

Speaking on Turkish television, Yildirim said the military leadership has ordered all soldiers back to their bases. The prime minister called those behind the coup “traitors” and called the move “a terrorist act.”

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported that a military helicopter has attacked Ankara police headquarters. It was not clear if there were any injuries. Other clashes and explosions have also been heard in the city, while video posted to Twitter show military jets flying over the city.

 The Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge in Istanbul have been closed and Turkey’s Dogan News Agency reports the national police directorate has summoned all police to duty in Ankara.

At first, the scene at Taksim Square, a popular tourist destination in Istanbul, was tense but calm, and people were lining up at ATMs to withdraw cash and buying bread and water in case services go down, an eyewitness told ABC News. Video posted to Instagram shows crowds of people lining up at a grocery store and ATMs.

Shortly after, pro-military chants started to take place in the square, and then shots were fired, forcing people to leave, she said.

 In a FaceTime interview with CNN Turk, Erdogan called on his supporters to gather in the country’s squares and airports.

“We will give a strong reply to the leader of the coup,” Erdogan said. “I declare those responsible will receive the highest penalty.”

Erdogan’s was reported to have been at his summer house in the south of Turkey, but he is now back in Istanbul. Turkish TV showed him being mobbed by supporters after he landed.

A senior defense official told ABC News that the Department of Defense is concerned about the situation and is trying to assess the facts. More than 2,000 US servicemembers and civilian employees are stationed in Turkey.

 U.S. citizens in Turkey were told to shelter in place and stay indoors, the U.S. State Department said, adding to contact family and friends to inform them they’re safe. The state department also confirmed that martial law and a curfew have been imposed in Turkey, and U.S citizens were advised not to attempt to travel to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara or Consulates at this time.

The U.S. embassy said it has seen reports that social media has been blocked. Twitter said it found “no reason” to think it was fully blocked in Turkey, but it suspects there is an international slowing of traffic in the country.

 A total of 2,200 U.S. service members and civilian U.S. Department of Defense employees are currently in Turkey, a senior defense official told ABC News. A total of 1,500 U.S. service members and civilian employees are at Incirlik Air Base, which has been at an elevated force protection level since March, when it also ordered non-essential personnel out.

Incirlik is owned by Turkey and has a large Turkish military presence, the official said. The Department of Defense is unaware of any impact to U.S. troops there and whether there has been an impact to base operations.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry said all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected Government of Turkey, show restraint and avoid any violence or bloodshed, a statement from the White House read. The State Department will continue to focus on the safety and security of U.S. citizens in Turkey, and the president asked that Kerry continue to brief him as the situation unfolds.

Turkey has a history of military coups. The last coup was in 1980, when 650,000 people were put under arrest. The country has the second largest army after the U.S. and any NATO country. Turkey joined NATO in 1952 and has remained a NATO member throughout its previous coups.

Erdogan has long blamed a powerful Muslim group led by Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, a moderate Turkish cleric living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, for leading a parallel state.

“This is not a country that can be run from Pennsylvania,” Erdogan said.

Before 2013, the two were political allies before falling out over corruption allegations leveled at Erdogan.

In 2012, more than 300 military officers were jailed over an alleged conspiracy to overthrow Erdogan’s government.

The armed forces were long viewed as guardians of secular republic established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, carrying out three coups between 1960 and 1980 and pushing an Islamist-led government from power in 1997.

No further information was immediately available.

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