Syrian rebels applauded Turks on Saturday for standing firm against a “conspiracy” to overthrow President Tayyip Erdogan, one of the main regional supporters of their fight against head of Syrian regime Bashar al-Assad.
“We congratulate the Turkish government…for the victory of the Turkish people and the government they elected,” said a statement issued in the name of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Jaysh al-Nasr, a part of the broad FSA umbrella of rebel groups, sent this statement to Reuters.
It said the Turkish people have shown the world that their will would not be broken by thwarting a “great conspiracy which targeted the stability and security of the country.”
Forces loyal to Turkey’s government fought on Saturday to crush the last remnants of a military coup attempt which collapsed after crowds answered Erdogan’s call to take to the streets and dozens of rebels abandoned their tanks.
One hundred and sixty-one people were killed, including many civilians, after a faction of the armed forces tried to seize power using tanks and attack helicopters. Some attacked the headquarters of Turkish intelligence and parliament in the capital, Ankara, and others seized a major bridge in Istanbul.
Erdogan accused the coup plotters of trying to kill him and launched a purge of the armed forces, which last used force to stage a successful coup more than 30 years ago.
“They will pay a heavy price for this,” said Erdogan, who also saw off mass public protests against his rule three years ago. “This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army.”
A Turkish broadcaster reported that a purge of the judiciary was also underway.
U.S. TO COOPERATE IN TURKEY PROBE
The Turkish government said followers of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in self-imposed exile in the United States for years, were behind the attempted coup.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday the United States had not received any request to extradite Gulen, but was willing to assist in legitimate efforts to deal with plotters of Turkey’s attempted coup.
Speaking during a trip to Luxembourg, Kerry said he hoped the constitutional process would be followed when dealing with those behind the attempted coup.
“I am sure that people will wonder about allegations about who instigated this and where support came from,” he said.
“The United States will obviously be supportive of any legitimate legislative efforts and, under due process and within the law, we will be completely supportive of efforts to assist the government of Turkey if they so request.”
Asked if the United States had received an extradition request, he said:
“No, we haven’t received any request with respect to Mr Gulen. We fully anticipate that there will be questions raised about Mr Gulen, and obviously we invite the government of Turkey … to present us with any legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny and the United States will accept that and look at it and make judgments appropriately and I am confident there will be some discussion about that.”
Gulen denied playing any role in the attempted coup, which he condemned.
Kerry said the United States understood that in Turkey “things are now calm and order is being restored.”
Kerry expressed hope that “things will remain calm and there will be a constitutional process and a legal process to deal appropriately with coup plotters.”
He reiterated U.S. support for the elected government.
“The United States, without hesitation, squarely and unequivocally stands for democratic leadership, for the respect for a democratic elected leader, and for a constitutional process,” he said.
Kerry said the coup attempt had come as a surprise to all, and added: “I must say, it does not appear to have been a very brilliantly planned or executed event.”
He said that, as things stood, Turkey’s cooperation in counter- terrorism efforts, in NATO, on Syria and in countering ISIS had not been impaired.