Military Coup at the Heart of Europe, Erdogan’s Whereabouts Unknown

  • Turkey will be run by a peace council that will ensure safety of population, says military
  • President Erdogan: Wewill overcome this
  • Protests on the streets of Istanbul in response to President’s call
  • US monitoring situation

    Adedayo Adejobi with Agency Reports

    Democracy witnessed a major setback yesterday, not in Africa but at the heart of Europe and a NATO country, when Turkish military rolled out its tanks to seize power in a frightening military coup, reminescent of what obtains in Africa and other developing countries. But the Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the attempted coup would be put down. As the hours ticked back, the military appear to consolidate its hold of power as President Tayyip Erdogan whereabout is unknown.

    If successful, the overthrow of Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, would be one of the biggest shifts in power in the Middle East in years, transforming one of the most important U.S. allies in the region.

    Yildirim said the elected government remained in office. Aiports were shut, access to internet social media sites was

    cut off, and troops sealed off the two bridges over the Bosphorus in Istanbul, one of which was still lit up red, white and blue in solidarity with victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in France a day earlier.

    TRT state television an- nounced a countrywide curfew. An announcer read a statement on the orders of the military that accused the government of eroding the democratic and secular rule of law. The country would be run by a “peace council” that would ensure the safety of the population, the statement said.

    Erdoğan addressed the nation via skype. He said that the coup was the work of a minority within the military.

    Speaking to CNN Turk, he adds: “We will overcome this.”

    In response to his call for protest, thousands spilled onto the streets of Istanbul yesterday night asking the military to return to their barracks.

    An European Union source monitoring events told Reuters that military forces have control of airports and strategic points in Istanbul.

    An announcement on the Turkish state broadcaster TRT said that a curfew has been declared across Turkey and that airports are closed. The announcer says they were being made to read a statement by the military.

    The statement promises a new constitution for the country and says that democracy and the secular rule of law had been undermined. Martial law has also been imposed, it adds.

    The head of the Istanbul branch of Turkey’s ruling AK party says soldiers entered the party building and asked them to leave, CNN Turk reports. Soldiers are inside the buildings of the Turkish state broadcaster TRT in the country’s capital Ankara, a correspondent for that outlet tells the Reuters news agency.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking jointly after talks in Moscow, both said they hoped bloodshed would be avoided.

    Turkey, a NATO member with the second biggest military in the Western alliance, is one of the most important allies of the United States in the fight against Islamic State.

    It is a principal backer of opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country’s civil war, and host to 2 million Syrian refugees.

    The country has been at war with Kurdish separatists, and has suffered numerous bombing and shooting attacks this year, including an attack two weeks ago by Islamists at Istanbul’s main airport that killed more than 40 people.

    A senior EU source monitor- ing the situation said: “It looks like a relatively well orchestrated coup by a significant body of the military, not just a few colonels. They’ve got control of the airports and are expecting control over the TV station im- minently. They control several strategic points in Istanbul.

    “Given the scale of the operation, it is difficult to imagine they will stop short of prevailing. It’s not just a few colonels,” the source repeated.

    One European diplomat was dining with the Turkish ambassador to a European capital when guests were interrupted by the pinging of urgent news on their mobile phones.

    In an statement sent by email and reported on TV channels, the military said it had taken power to protect the democratic order and to maintain human rights. All of Turkey’s existing foreign relations would be maintained and the rule of law would remain the priority, it said.

    The state-run Anadolu news agency said the chief of Turkey’s military staff was among people taken “hostage” in the capital Ankara. CNN Turk also reported that hostages were being held at the military headquarters.

    After serving as prime min- ister from 2003, Erdogan was elected president in 2014 with plans to alter the constitution to give the previously ceremonial presidency far greater executive powers.

    His AK Party, with roots in Islamism, has long had a strained relationship with the military and nationalists in a state that was founded on secularist principles after World War One. The military has a history of mounting coups to defend secular principles, but has not seized power directly since 1980.

    “Some people illegally under- took an illegal action outside of the chain of command,” Yildirim said in comments broadcast by private channel NTV.

    “The government elected by the people remains in charge. This government will only go when the people say so.”

    Those behind the attempted coup would pay the highest price, he added.