An attempted Turkish military coup appeared to crumble on Saturday after crowds answered President Tayyip Erdogan’s call to take to the streets to support him and dozens of rebel soldiers abandoned their tanks in the main city of Istanbul.
At least 60 people were killed in violence that erupted on Friday after a faction of the armed forces attempted to seize power, officials said.
A successful overthrow of Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, would have marked one of the biggest shifts in the Middle East in years, transforming one of the most important U.S. allies while war rages on its border. A failed coup attempt could still destabilize a pivotal country.
Erdogan, who had been holidaying on the southwest coast when the coup was launched, flew into Istanbul before dawn on Saturday and was shown on TV among a crowd of supporters outside Ataturk Airport.
The uprising was an “act of treason”, and those responsible would pay a heavy price, he told reporters at a hastily arranged news conference. Arrests of officers were under way and it would go higher up the ranks, culminating in the cleansing of the military, he said.
Addressing a crowd of thousands of flag-waving supporters at the airport later, Erdogan said the government remained at the helm, although disturbances continued in Ankara.
However, in an emailed statement from the Turkish military General Staff’s media office address, the pro-coup faction said it was determinedly still fighting.
Calling itself the Peace at Home Movement, the faction also called on people to stay indoors for their own safety.
Rebel soldiers who had taken control of military aircraft were still firing from the air and fighter jets had been scrambled to intercept them, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, underscoring the ongoing uncertainty.
Gunfire and explosions had rocked both Istanbul and Ankara in a chaotic night after soldiers took up positions in both cities and ordered state television to read out a statement declaring they had taken power.
Around 50 soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on one of the bridges across the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul after dawn on Saturday, abandoning their tanks with their hands raised in the air. Reuters witnesses saw government supporters attack the pro-coup soldiers who had surrendered.
Earlier, around 30 pro-coup soldiers had surrendered their weapons after being surrounded by armed police in Istanbul’s central Taksim square.
They were taken away in police vans as a fighter jet repeatedly screeched overhead at low altitude, causing a boom that shook surrounding buildings and shattered windows.