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Erdogan Reasserts Control as Turkish Forces Fight to Crush Coup Remnants | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are dispersed with shots in the air by the military at the Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016. Reuters

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan battled to regain control over Turkey Saturday after crowds answered his call to take to the streets and dozens of rebels abandoned their tanks after a coup bid by discontented soldiers.

Turkish Prime Minister Benali Yildirim said 161 people were killed in the country’s overnight military coup attempt. He said more than 1,400 people were wounded in the chaos. More than 2,800 people have been detained.

He described the night as a “dark stain for Turkish democracy” and pinned blame for the coup on the “parallel terrorist organization.”

That term is used by authorities to describe the movement of U.S.-based Islamist cleric Fethullah Gulen.

“They will receive every punishment they deserve,” the prime minister said, noting the perpetrators were now in the hands of the justice system.

Yildirim said a country that would stand by Gulen won’t be a friend of Turkey and will be considered at war with the country.

Erdogan has always accused the Pennsylvania-based Gulen of seeking to overthrow him.

But the president’s former ally “categorically” denied any involvement in the plot, calling the accusation “insulting.”

However, Turkey’s acting chief of the general staff, Gen. Umit Dundar, said that the military is determined to purge members of Gulen’s movement.

The coup attempt began on Friday night after a faction of the armed forces tried to seize power using tanks and attack helicopters. Some strafed the headquarters of Turkish intelligence and parliament in the capital, Ankara, and others seized a major bridge in Istanbul.

After hours of chaos and violence unseen in decades, Erdogan ended uncertainty over his whereabouts and flew into Istanbul before dawn on Saturday. He was shown on TV outside Ataturk Airport.

The president had been holidaying on the southwest coast when the coup was launched.

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.

Officials insisted the putsch bid was falling apart with over 1,560 officers held and close to 200 unarmed soldiers at the Turkish military HQ surrendering.

Crowds of flag-waving supporters of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) appeared to have turned the tide, defying orders of a curfew and marching out onto the streets to block the attempt to overthrow the regime.