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Plot of Turkey’s Coup Revealed via WhatsApp | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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People react after taking over military position on the Bosphorus bridge in Istanbul, on July 16, 2016 (AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic)

London – A recent study published by British journalist Christiaan Triebert revealed part of the conversations between plotters of the failed military coup in Turkey. The conversation revealed details about the scheme and plan since it began at 9:15 PM till 04:41 AM.

The Bellingcat website reported that the group used WhatsApp in order to communicate and plan for the coup. The open source investigative website translated and analyzed the transcript of the conversations and then linked it to the news reports between the night of July 15 and early morning of July 16.

The transcript is composed of two different sources. The first source was a video uploaded to Twitter on the morning of July 16, revealing a phone conversation of a surrendered, captured, or killed coup plotter. This video shows a WhatsApp conversation between 9:15 PM and 10:45 PM.

The second source is a series of photos that unveil the rest of the conversation.

The WhatsApp group consists of high-ranking military officials; most of whom belonging to the Turkish Land Forces, including two Brigadiers and eleven Colonels.

The group is one of the coordinating networks of the coup attempt. Its main focus is on land forces in Istanbul and Sakarya. There are probably other coordinating groups working in Turkey.

It is important to keep in mind that this is merely part of a conversation between some of the coup plotters that doesn’t cover the whole plot.

As mentioned in the conversation, at least one member of the group communicates with “Ankara” where the headquarters of the coup exists, probably in Akinci Air Base. Three out of the five regiments are part of Turkey’s NATO Rapid Deployable Corps.

The revealed transcript shows a chaotic conversation between the plotters with several numbers being exchanged amid the coup attempt.

Noticeable during the conversation was traffic congestion that caused a problem throughout the night; which the plotters were trying to avoid. Also, they discussed the commander of the 1st army being a hostage and further requested air support. Targeting the Bosporus Bridge was also suggested on the WhatsApp group.

As the morning broke, the coup plotters realized it was over. A colonel asked whether they should escape and was responded, “We have not decided yet. But we have left our position. I’m closing the group. Delete the messages if you want.”

Below are excerpts of the translated transcript of the WhatsApp conversation. The full transcript is available on Bellingcat.

On July 15, 2016, at 9:15 PM sharp, Major Murat Çelebioblu created a WhatsApp group under the name “Yurtta Sulh” which means peace at home.

Yurtta Sulh are the first two words of a famous sentence pronounced in 1931 by first President of the Republic of Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk said back then, “Yurtta sulh, cihanda sulh”.

The slogan was later adopted by the Turkish Land Forces and became part of Turkey’s foreign policy.

Afterwards, Major Çelebioglu added a number of people to the group and informed them that he will be making several announcements. He said members can share updates which he will pass on to Ankara, referring to the coup’s headquarters.

Some of the group’s members were added to the contact book of the phone’s owner revealing their names and military ranks. Others introduced themselves by name while some were discovered through the conversation.

Later at 9:26 PM, Çelebioglu issued the first instructions for military action saying, “Traffic on the E5 and TEM (Trans European Motorway) outside of Istanbul will be left as it is. Traffic trying to enter Istanbul will be halted and turned back.”

Colonel Ahmet Zeki Gerehan replied that the locations “which need to be occupied must be taken immediately.”

Clearly, the plotters had several locations in mind to seize or, at least, show their presence.

Throughout the chat, the following locations can be identified as most important: Bosphorus Bridge (or First Bridge), Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge (or Second Bridge), Taksim Square, the Disaster Coordination Centre, Ataturk International Airport, Sabiha Gokcen International Airport, Istanbul Police Headquarters at Vatan Caddesi, Istanbul Riot Police Headquarters in Bayrampaşa, Kuleli Military High School, Istanbul Governor’s office, Istanbul Stock Exchange, Justice and Development Party (AKP) provincial office, Turkish Radio and Television Corporation in Istanbul (TRT), Logistics Support Base, and the War Colleges Command.

At 9:29 PM, Colonel Muslim Kaya was the first to mention “6 started,” referring to the 6th Motorized Infantry Regiment based in Hasdal, Istanbul.

Meanwhile, it seemed as though the plotters faced their first problem. At the academy a person referred to as Fatih Irmak reported having problems convincing his unit to join the coup.

Celebioglu asked whether Colnel Gerehan would help him out, to which the latter responded: “We are on our way to help.”

However, few minutes later another problem also occurred: traffic congestion, which will also be recurring throughout the night. Celebioglu asked: “Are the 2nd and 66th having difficulties due to traffic congestion on the roads?” to which Major Osman Akkaya “We have not left yet.”

Major Çelebioglu then asked again about the location of the two regiments. Colonel Kaya replies that the 6th Motorized Infantry Regiment is about to reach the Disaster Coordination Centre. This reveals that the plotters wanted to take control over the center before taking any other action.

During their conversation, they used several numbers which analysis revealed they refer to military units.

As for the plate numbers of the military vehicle, the pictures revealed that 2nd Armored Brigade and 66th Mechanized Infantry Brigades participated in the coup. Some military vehicles had their number plates covered during the coup attempt.

At 9:50 PM, Colonel Gerehan asked: “Who should the Hadimkoy reinforcements contact, the contact that has agreed upon is not there,” adding that “They are waiting at the entrance.” He also called General Kani Akman Garrison.

Gerehan is most probably referring to the 52nd Tactical Armored Division, as that is the only military unit based in Hadimkoy.

At 9:54 PM, Major Çelebioglu said they are calling Pasha Eyup. The word “pasha” is an Ottoman-era honorific title for general, which is still being used in Turkey and the wider region.

Çelebioglu also asked for the number of Lieutenant-Colonel Mehmet Erol from the Turkish Air Force, though another Major said that General Eyup had already been contacted and he will open the gates.

Colonel Sadik Selim Cebeci shares the phone number of Erol, who was added to the group fifteen minutes later.

Colonel Kaya informed to group that a unit is on its way to TRT, precisely the TRT Radio.

Nine minutes later, Kaya wrote that they were taking over AKOM, which might indicate that the persons in this group command a number of groups spread over Istanbul and Sakarya.