Forces loyal to Turkey's president quashed a coup attempt in a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire that left dozens dead Saturday. Authorities arrested thousands of people as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed those responsible "will pay a heavy price for their treason."
The chaos capped a period of political turmoil in Turkey — a NATO member and key Western ally in the fight against the Islamic State group — that critics blame on Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian rule. He has shaken up the government, cracked down on dissidents, restricted the news media and renewed conflict with Kurdish rebels.
Pressure has also come from millions of refugees who have fled violence in neighboring Syria and Iraq, and a series of bloody attacks blamed on the Islamic State group and Kurdish rebels.
The uprising appears not to have been backed by the most senior ranks of the military, and Turkey's main opposition parties quickly condemned the attempted overthrow of the government. Gen. Umit Dundar, newly appointed as acting chief of the general staff, said the plotters were mainly officers from the Air Force, the military police and the armored units.
Prime Minister Benali Yildirim said 161 people were killed and 1,440 wounded in the overnight violence. He said 2,839 plotters were detained. A source at the office of the presidency, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, said the 161 toll "excludes assailants."
The coup attempt began late Friday, with a military statement saying forces 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."
The military did not appear unified, as top commanders went on television to condemn the action and order troops back to their barracks.
Turkish authorities said they had regained control of the country on Saturday after thwarting an attempt by discontented soldiers to seize power from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that claimed more than 250 lives.
After the bloodiest challenge to his 13-year autocratic rule, Erdogan urged his backers to stay on the streets to prevent a possible “flare-up” of Friday’s chaos in the strategic NATO member of 80 million people.
Erdogan immediately pinned the blame on “the parallel state” and “Pennsylvania” — a reference to Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, his arch-enemy whom he has always accused of seeking to overthrow him.
Experts say the doomed coup attempt by a small number of the military could shore up the president’s power, and even speculate that this was a false flag operation that aimed to achieve that exact goal
He weathered anti-government protests that lasted for months in 2013.
He escaped the flames that engulfed some of his ministers in a corruption investigation nearly three years ago.
And now Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has survived a military coup — a boast many of his predecessors ousted in previous army takeovers cannot share.
However, in a country which has seen three military coups — and one where direct force was not used — there have always been signs of fault lines that could prompt such a move.
For Sinan Ulgen, director of the Edam think tank and visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, this was not a coup by the full army as in previous cases, but undertaken by a clique who themselves held top general Hulusi Akar hostage.
“It was not an operation designed by the army and it showed. Without the full support of the army, they lacked the assets and capabilities.”
ANALYSIS: Turkey’s Erdogan Shattered Even If His Regime Survives - Breitbart