Chaos as branches of police and army fight, civilians flood streets

A defiant man standing in front of an army tank at Ataturk airport in Istanbul yesterday as the country came to grips with an attempted coup the day before. People running away on the Bosphorus Bridge during clashes in Istanbul yesterday. There were
People running away on the Bosphorus Bridge during clashes in Istanbul yesterday. There were reports of gunfire as protesters approached the troops on the city's bridges. Elsewhere across the city, angry crowds took to the streets to boo the passing tanks, while others celebrated. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A defiant man standing in front of an army tank at Ataturk airport in Istanbul yesterday as the country came to grips with an attempted coup the day before. People running away on the Bosphorus Bridge during clashes in Istanbul yesterday. There were
A defiant man standing in front of an army tank at Ataturk airport in Istanbul yesterday as the country came to grips with an attempted coup the day before.PHOTO: REUTERS

ISTANBUL • Turkey resembled a war zone as elements of the military launched air strikes and deployed troops to try and topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Branches of the police and army fought pitched battles for control of government buildings in the streets of the capital Ankara, and protesters confronted tanks in Istanbul as Turkey, a Nato member and key US ally, appeared to descend into chaos on Friday. It is the latest outbreak of violence after a series of deadly terror attacks that have put the nation on edge.

During battles to retake control, pro-coup aircraft were shot down and more than 100 plotters killed, acting army chief General Umit Dundar said. Dozens of civilians also died and more than 1,400 people were injured.

Soon after the coup began, Turkish airspace was closed and international flights suspended as the plotters flew around in helicopters firing on government buildings.

Istanbul was rocked by explosions, including blasts near its main focal point Taksim Square.

Tanks opened fire around the Parliament building in Ankara and military personnel were detained, including top general Hulusi Akar, who was taken hostage at the military headquarters in Ankara.

The coup began with gunshots in Ankara, and military jets and helicopters were seen flying overhead.

 

Around the same time, Istanbul's Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge were both closed as troops blocked traffic.

Soon after, Turkey's Prime Minister said a coup was under way.

In the back streets of Beyoglu, on the European side of Istanbul, bars and restaurants were showing footage on television of scenes at the bridge, while party-goers were glued to their mobile phones trying to learn what was happening.

There was chaos in Istanbul as angry crowds took to the streets to boo the passing tanks, while others celebrated. Fighter jets could be heard flying over the city.

There were reports of gunfire as protesters approached the troops on the bridges and, according to NTV, a television news channel, three people were injured.

"We are angry at the military because they are killing us; they are killing civilians," one protester told Agence France-Press.

Many Turks heeded the call of President Erdogan to flood the streets in defiance of the coup plotters.

In Taksim Square, protesters challenged rebel troops, saying they would not back down.

Around 30 pro-coup soldiers later surrendered their weapons after being surrounded by armed police in Taksim Square.

They were taken away in police vans as a fighter jet repeatedly screeched overhead at low altitude, causing a boom that shook surrounding buildings and shattered windows.

But other Turks welcomed news of the coup.

"Turks are on fire," Mr Fethi Karabas, a 27-year-old tour guide in Taksim Square, told AFP.

"We have hope now," he added. "Turkey has been in a very polarised state for almost 15 years now... This is the manifestation of all that anger."

Some accuse Mr Erdogan of enabling the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria by supporting rebel groups fighting against the Syrian government.

Teacher Seyda Yilmaz, who was out in Istanbul when the news broke, said: "The country is in chaos and Erdogan needs to be put in his place, but I'm afraid. I don't know what to say at this point. We are all in shock. No one thought that the military would stand up against Erdogan."

REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 17, 2016, with the headline 'Chaos as branches of police and army fight, civilians flood streets'. Print Edition | Subscribe