Turkey coup: Both sides claim upper hand; martial law imposed; Erdogan may seek asylum

ANKARA, Turkey, July 15 (UPI) — Civil unrest took hold in the streets of Turkey late Friday after members of the nation’s military attempted to forcibly seize power in a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s regime.

The coup attempt occurred in the capital, Ankara, and in Istanbul on Friday night — plunging the nation into a chaotic power grab for control of Turkey’s government

Hours into the overthrow attempt, both sides claimed the upper hand in the struggle.

“Some people illegally undertook an illegal action outside of the chain of command,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in comments broadcast on Turkish television. “The government elected by the people remains in charge. This government will only go when the people say so.”

Ned Price/Twitter

Turkish military officials, however, sounded as if their coup attempt was successful — saying in a statement that they seized power to maintain democratic order and human rights.

The sounds of gunfire and military jets screaming overhead permeated Ankara and Istanbul, witnesses said. News reports said the military also took control of a television station.

Two Istanbul bridges were closed off by armed forces and tanks blocked the entrance to the city’s Ataturk International Airport, where flights were uniformly canceled. The military also reportedly declared martial law.

Friday afternoon, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said President Barack Obama had been advised of the situation in Turkey and the U.S. Department of State issued a warning to American citizens in the country.

“We urge U.S. citizens to contact family and friends to let them know you are safe,” it read. “We encourage U.S. citizens to shelter in place and do not go to the U.S. Embassy or Consulates at this time.”

U.S. Department of State/Facebook

Government officials said Erdogan was in a secure location, and some news outlets reported that the Turkish president might be seeking asylum in Germany.

On Turkish television, Erdogan urged citizens to take to the streets to demonstrate their support of the government.

“I’ve never seen anything more powerful than the people,” he said.

It wasn’t entirely clear late Friday whether the coup attempt was mounted by the Turkish military as a whole, or small factions of the country’s armed forces. Erdogan indicated in his remarks that it was an “attempt at an uprising by a minority within [Turkey’s] armed forces.”

Turkey, the only Muslim member of NATO, has been a powder keg of instability in recent months as the government has tried to suppress terrorism and strike a harmonic chord among its somewhat divided population.

Erdogan has ruled Turkey since 2003, but has held the title of president since only 2014 when Ankara held its first democratic presidential election.

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