Ankara, July 16 (IANS) Turkish television on Saturday broadcast images of a plane carrying President Recep Tayyip Erdogan landing at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport shortly after Turkey’s MIT intelligence service said that the attempt by elements of the military to overthrow the government had collapsed.
“The attempted coup has failed. It is nearly over,” MIT deputy press secretary Nuh Yilmaz told reporters, though acknowledging the existence of pockets of resistance among the rebels who rose against the government late on Friday night.
Fighting continued in Ankara, where military aircraft made a pair of bombing runs in the vicinity of the parliament building, resulting in injuries, Efe news reported.
At least 17 officers died in a blast at a police special forces installation in Ankara’s Golbasi district, according to CNNTürk, while other media outlets reported that an F-16 shot down a helicopter belonging to the rebel forces.
At roughly the same time that Erdogan’s plane touched down, employees of CNNTürk said that rebel soldiers stormed their studios and forced them to stop broadcasting.
TRT television, meanwhile, said that the rebel soldiers who had commandeered its studios to broadcast statements from the coup leaders were neutralised by a group of civilians.
The chief of the General Staff, Gen. Hulusi Akar, was rescued safe and sound from the rebel troops who took him hostage, NTV television reported.
The tanks and troops deployed earlier to Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport have been withdrawn, allowing police and hundreds of Erdogan supporters to enter the terminal.
Erdogan, who was vacationing on the coast, reached out to CNNTürk by telephone shortly after the coup leaders announced they had seized control of the country.
“I urge our people, everybody, to fill the squares of the country to give the necessary response,” he said using Facetime.
“This coup d’etat will never succeed. Sooner or later, it will be eliminated. I am going to return to Ankara,” Erdogan said.
Television footage showed civilians trying to occupy public squares in major cities and the Dogan news agency said that soldiers fired on anti-coup protesters in Istanbul, leaving an undetermined number of people wounded.
In Istanbul, security forces closed the two bridges across the Bosphorus that connect the European and Asian sectors of the metropolis, Efe news reported.
The violent confrontation between troops and protesters took place at the entrance to one of the bridges, which have since been reopened.
The rebels claimed that they acted with the aim of “restoring democracy”.
The takeover announcement followed an acknowledgement by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim that elements of the military launched “an illegal attempt” to seize power.
“We are working on the possibility of an attempt. We will not allow this attempt,” he told NTV television. “It would be wrong to call it a coup.”
He acknowledged that rebellious soldiers had “surrounded some important buildings”.
“Those who are in this illegal act will pay the highest price,” Yildirim said, insisting Turkey would never allow any “initiative that would interrupt democracy”.
The leaders of the military revolt described Erdogan as a “traitor” who established an “authoritarian regime of fear”.
Under Erdogan, leader of the Islamist AKP party, “all state institutions began to be designed with ideological aim” and “secular rule of law was effectively eliminated,” the rebels said.