Turkish President declares attempted coup ‘act of treason’ (Third Lead)

Ankara/Istanbul, July 16 (IANS) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday declared an attempted military coup against his government as an “act of treason” and vowed to his supporters that the coup plotters will pay for the chaos.

After landing in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport earlier on Saturday, Erdogen in a televised speech said “This is a movement of treason and an insurgency. Let me tell you that they will pay a heavy price for this treason.”

“There is a government in power and a president in power elected by the people. We are on duty and we will continue to conduct our duty until the very end,” state-run Anadolu News Agency quoted the President as saying.

A chaotic night began late Friday with reports of soldiers trying to take control of bridges and key areas in major cities. Later, army helicopters began airstrikes and shelled key locations in the capital, Ankara.

So far, 130 soldiers were detained in the coup attempt. Conflicting media reports differed in the death toll figures. BBC, CNN and the Guardian said 42 people, mostly civilians were killed while Xinhua news agency have put the toll at 60.

Bombs struck near the Turkish Grand Assembly. Airborne shelling at several locations included the ruling AK Party headquarters, the presidential complex and the General Staff, Anadolu News Agency said.

Erdogen said the coup is now over and the government is now in control.

In his address, the President blamed Fethullah Gulen, a high-profile political figure and religious scholar based in US responsible for the coup, CNN reported.

“Now I’m addressing those in Pennsylvania. The betrayal you have shown to this nation and to this community, that’s enough. If you have the courage, come back to your country. If you can. You will not have the means to turn this country into a mess from where you are.”

According to the Guardian daily, as Erdogen concluded his speech, crowd, numbering in the thousands, chanted and sang, “one nation, one flag, one motherland”.

Government officials have also announced that the coup was over but a “relatively small amount” of tension still remains in Ankara, the Guardian reports.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced on Saturday that Umit Dündar is the new acting chief of military staff.

However, there was no word on the current head of the armed forces, General Hulusi Akar.

Earlier, Erdogan said he had no information about Akar, who was reportedly taken hostage at military headquarters by those behind the attempted coup.

Istanbul’s Ataturk airport – where more than 40 people were killed in suicide attacks on June 28 – was now reportedly back in the hands of officers loyal to the government after it was seized by coup supporters, the Guardian noted.

Flights were suspended or diverted, but some were now arriving. A number of flights are still being diverted to Istanbul’s second airport, Sabiha, as the situation at Ataturk remained unclear.

Broadcaster CNN-Turk was back on air, having been closed down on Friday night when soldiers entered the building and ordered journalists to leave.

State broadcaster TRT was also taken off air by those involved in the coup.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has called an emergency meeting in parliament later in the day, the Guardian added.

–IANS

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