07/16/2016, 14.57
TURKEY
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Military coup fails in Turkey: after faltering Erdogan announces crackdown

The Turkish president is back in Istanbul, met by supporters. For hours he flew over the country, waiting to see the situation evolve. Mystery surrounds the coup attempt, and its masterminds. About 90 people die in clashes and 1,200 are wounded. Some 200 soldiers who took part in the operation are arrested. International community is concerned.

Istanbul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan returned to Istanbul late last night after police and loyalists stopped an army group from taking over the country.

Surrounded by supporters, he spoke on live national television to say that the coup attempt was an "act of treason" and the army must be cleansed.

For Turkey, the last hours have been the most difficult of the past 13 years since Erdogan took power.

On a private plane, the president flew over the country for a long time, frantically seeking asylum in Germany and Britain – which was denied –and called on his supporters to "fight for democracy".

According to early reports, the coup attempt – which was not backed by opposition parties – left 90 people dead and nearly 1,200 wounded.

Sporadic rounds of gunfire were heard throughout the night and early morning in several Turkish cities.

So far at least 200 soldiers, who participated in some form to coup, surrendered to police. Simple privates, they gave up once they realised that police had foiled the operation.

A Turkish government official said that the security services had arrested 1,563 soldiers. Prime Minister Binali Yildirin confirmed that the situation is largely under control.

At the same time, the Turkish parliament met in special session this morning to Ankara to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, the whereabouts of the military chief of staff, Gen Hulusi Akar, are still unknown. Reports ha indicated that he had taken hostage by rebel soldiers, but this has not been confirmed.

General Umit Dundar, commander of the 1st Army, has been appointed acting chief of staff.

For a few hours the coup plotters held Istanbul airport, suspending its regular activities. As soon as the emergency was over, normal operations resumed.

In a statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said the coup attempt "was foiled by the Turkish people in unity and solidarity. Our president and government are in charge".

What is more, the "Turkish Armed Forces were not involved in the coup attempt in its entirety. It was conducted by a clique within the armed forces and received a well-deserved response from our nation."

It is unclear who led the coup or how much support it enjoyed in the country and the Armed Forces. The group earlier declared itself as a "peace council" to restore democracy and uphold rights that Erdogan had trampled.  

Initially, the president blamed his old ally, now nemesis, Fetullah Gulen, who is in exile in the United States, for orchestrating the coup.

However, in a statement, Mr Gulen rejected any suggestion he had links to the events. "I condemn, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey," he said.

For several hours, the international community took a wait and see attitude, until today, when various capitals issued official statements.

US President Barack Obama urged support for the government which they said had been democratically elected.

NATO, of which Turkey is a member, called for "full respect" for Turkey's democratic institutions.

European Council President Donald Tusk said the country was "a key partner for the European Union".

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