A violent, chaotic night in Turkey ended with at least 194 people dead following an attempted coup, officials said, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reappearance after hours of uncertainty.
While it was unclear whether Erdogan had quashed the uprising, the government was slowly reasserting its authority Saturday morning.
At least 754 people were arrested in the attempted coup, state-run Anadolu agency reported, citing the interior ministry. More than 30 senior army officers have been suspended.
At least 42 people — mostly police officers — were killed in Ankara in a gunfire exchange with a helicopter near the parliament complex, Turkey’s NTV reported, citing the attorney general’s office. At least 1,000 people in Istanbul and Ankara were hospitalized after a night of violence rocked the country.
In Istanbul, a defiant Erdogan addressed crowds in the city, telling them that the coup had been quashed.
“The government is in control,” he told supporters as they chanted his name.
“Fifty percent of the people elected the President and that President is on duty,” he said.
“My brothers, I want you to know this: Those who brought these tanks out — what happened to these tanks? My people took these tanks back, haven’t they? So far as we believe, so far as we’re alive, we’ll be prepared to die in the cause to tackle these people. But we will stand firm, we’re not going to compromise.”
The alleged plotters have not released any statement.
Shortly after dawn, video footage showed soldiers surrendering in masses. They walked away from tanks and abandoned their posts on the Bosphorus Bridge, which connects the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.
Turkish Airlines resumed flights out of Ataturk, which had earlier been overrun by protesters.
Opposition soldiers had attempted to seize control overnight in various locations across the country, including the capital Ankara.
Erdogan traveled overnight from the seaside resort of Marmaris and addressed the country Saturday from Istanbul’s Ataturk airport. He called the attempt “treason.”
Erdogan took the forces he apparently suspects of masterminding the coup to task.
“Now I’m addressing those in Pennsylvania,” he said, in an apparent reference to Fethullah Gulen, a cleric and former ally who lives in exile in Pennsylvania.
“The betrayal you have shown to this nation and to this community, that’s enough. If you have the courage, come back to your country. If you can. You will not have the means to turn this country into a mess from where you are.”
In a statement, Gulen denied any connection to the coup attempt and said he condemned it “in the strongest terms.”
Witness Katherine Cohen, an American who’s staying in an Istanbul hotel, said she heard a loud explosion at sunrise, and gunfire and jets all through the night.
For much of the night, fighter jets flew low over Istanbul while armored vehicles streamed across a main bridge in the city. Gunshots rang out on Bosphorus Bridge, sending pro-government protesters down to the ground.
In Ankara, gunfire rang overnight as jets circled above.
“When I stuck my head out, I could see helicopters shooting,” said Diego Cupolo, a photojournalist in Ankara.
He said he could see tracer rounds zip through the air.
Bombs were thrown at the parliament building in Ankara. A helicopter the government says was stolen by coup plotters was shot down by an F-16.
he United States, United Kingdom and other nations are watching the crisis intently to see what will happen in Turkey — a member of the NATO Western military alliance, and home to air bases used in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
Chaos in the streets
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the street after Erdogan’s call to confront the military was broadcast on television.
Many waved Turkish flags and chanted their support for the President. Some climbed on tanks and blocked the path of military vehicles with their cars. But some soldiers got hugs from apparent supporters.
Ömer Çelik, Turkey’s EU negotiator, tweeted images that he said showed some of the damage at the Turkish Parliament:
“Our country has been subjected to treacherous enemy attack, which displays betrayal to the nation, their uniforms and morals. The necessary response has been shown to the enemy and it is still being shown,” he said.
A fighter jet shot down a helicopter that had been commandeered by “coup plotters,” a Turkish presidential source told CNN.
The Turkish military claim of a takeover was read by an anchor on state broadcaster TRT. She said the military imposed martial law.
The statement was made on behalf of the “Peace in the Nation” council, the announcer said. “The political administration that has lost all legitimacy has been forced to withdraw,” the anchor said. Later, after the military was kicked out, she said she was forced to read the military statement. “We were taken over. I was forced by men with arms and they told us that they would not harm us if we did as told.”
When the coup began, soldiers blocked two bridges in Istanbul between the European and Asian sides.
Unclear who is in charge
Earlier, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim vowed the coup attempt would not succeed.
The coup is “an attempt against democracy and the will of the people. Those who attempted this will pay the heaviest price,” he told state media.
As the protests began, there were 200 to 300 residents in Taksim Square in Istanbul. Many waved Turkish flags. About 100 police officers were shooting off tear gas, trying to disperse the crowd.