ANKARA: Turkish authorities said they had regained control of the country on Saturday after thwarting a coup attempt by discontented soldiers to seize power from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that claimed more than 250 lives.
After the bloodiest challenge to his 13-year autocratic rule, Erdogan urged his backers to stay on the streets to prevent a possible “flare-up” of Friday´s chaos in the strategic NATO member of 80 million people.
With at least 2,839 soldiers already detained in a relentless round-up over the coup plot, the authorities blamed the conspiracy on Erdogan´s arch enemy, the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Turks woke up early Saturday to television pictures showing dozens of soldiers surrendering after the apparent failure of the coup, some with their hands above their head, others forced to the ground in the streets.
“The situation is completely under control,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said outside his Ankara offices, flanked by Turkey´s top general who had himself been taken hostage by the plotters.
Describing the attempted coup as a “black stain” on Turkey´s democracy, Yildirim said 161 people had been killed in the night of violence and 1,440 wounded.
This toll did not appear to include 104 rebel soldiers killed overnight, bringing the overall death toll from the bloodshed to 265.
During a night where power was in the balance, large crowds of flag-waving supporters of Erdogan´s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) defied orders of a curfew and marching out onto the streets to block the attempt to overthrow the regime.
And Erdogan used his Twitter feed to urge people onto the streets to ensure no further challenges to his power.
“We should keep on owning the streets tonight no matter at what stage (the coup attempt is) because a new flare-up could take place at any moment,” he said.
As the dust settled on a dramatic and chaotic night, TV pictures Saturday showed extensive damage to the parliament building in Ankara that was bombed by rebel jets.