A failed coup in Turkey left at least 60 people dead as authorities conducted widespread arrests among the military. The coup attempt began late on Friday, with a statement from the military saying it had 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 law and order to be reinstated."
Though aerial bombings, military blockades and clashes between mobs and armed forces continued throughout the morning, government officials said the coup appeared to have failed as Turks took to the streets overnight to confront troops attempting to take over the country. Sounds of blasts echoed across the capital, Ankara and Istanbul and a bomb blast was reported at the parliament complex.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the nation on Saturday that his government is in charge. "They have pointed the people's guns against the people. The president, whom 52 percent of the people brought to power, is in charge. This government brought to power by the people is in charge. They won't succeed as long as we stand against them by risking everything," he said.
Erdogan also said that the government was arresting coup supporters in the military and warned "they will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey," according to a transcript of his remarks provided by his office. "Those who stain the military's reputation must leave. The process has started today, and it will continue just as we fight other terrorist groups."
According to Turkey's state-run news agency, military chief of staff Gen. Hulusi Akar has been rescued in an operation launched at an air base in the outskirts of Ankara. Anadolu Agency says the general is being taken to a safe location.
Broadcaster CNN-Turk said that Akar was taken hostage at military headquarters in Ankara and transported by helicopter to Akincilar Air Base.
CNN-Turk says Akar would now take over the command of the operation against the coup plotters.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said security forces have defeated coup plotters in several places, including police and government buildings, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. Around 754 members of the armed forces have been detained across Turkey in the wake of the attempted coup.
"There is no where they have they have proper control," Bozdag said. "God willing, they will be defeated in the remaining areas and those in the air will be brought down."
Turkey's Police Chief Celalettin Lekesiz says 16 coup plotters have been killed in clashes at Turkey's military police command. In comments carried by the state-run Anadolu Agency on Saturday, Lekesiz said 250 others in the military police command were arrested. The police chief said clashes at the command are continuing but "are about to come to an end."
Meanwhile, commander of Turkey's 1st Army, Gen. Umit Dundar, has been appointed acting chief of military staff, announced Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
In images broadcast on CNN-Turk, dozens of soldiers walked among tanks with their hand held up, surrendering to government forces on Istanbul's Bosporus Bridge. Discarded gear was strewn on the ground. People, some holding flags, climbed onto the tanks.
— News18 (@CNNnews18) July 16, 2016
Erdogan's government has drawn criticism and street protests amid accusations of increasing authoritarianism and a crackdown on the opposition and media. However, there were no support for a military overthrow of the civilian government. His regime has been marked by a government shake-up, a crackdown on dissidents and opposition media and renewed conflict in the mainly Kurdish areas of the southeast.
With a notoriously fiery temper, Erdogan is known to himself and followers as the "buyuk usta" — the "big master" — or simply "the Sultan" and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has long been accused of seeking to impose conservative Islamic values on society — a possible point of friction with a military that has long seen itself as the guardian of Turkey's secular state.
Earlier, Erdogan ahd blamed US-based religious leader Fethullah Gulen. But Gulen condemned the foiled coup bid, saying "governments should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force."
Trained as an imam, or prayer leader, Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who is living in exile in Pennsylvania, gained notice in Turkey around 50 years back, promoting a philosophy that blended a mystical form of Islam with staunch advocacy of democracy, education, science and interfaith dialogue.
Supporters started 1,000 schools in more than 100 countries, including about 150 taxpayer-funded charter schools throughout the US. In Turkey, they have run universities, hospitals, charities, a bank and a large media empire with newspapers and radio and TV stations.
Erdogan has long accused Gulen of plotting to overthrow the officially secular government from a gated 26-acre compound in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. Gulen is rarely seen in public and has been put on trial in absentia at least three times.
Here is a timeline of Eradogan's rule in Turkey:
With inputs from agencies