Erdogan Tells US To Arrest Cleric, Airbase Used In ISIS Fight Closed

Erdogan Tells US To Arrest Cleric, Airbase Used In ISIS Fight Closed
July 17 09:44 2016 Print This Article

Turkey’s President worked to reaffirm his control after an attempted coup left nearly 200 people dead in a chaotic night of violence and uncertainty.

The Turkish Prime Minister’s office said at least 161 civilians and 20 plotters were killed following an attempted coup Friday night.

The uprising was followed by swift government action against the alleged coup plotters.

Hundreds of soldiers and judges were detained or fired after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan re-emerged early Saturday, reassuring a stunned nation that he was in control.

Soldiers involved in the coup attempt surrender on Bosphorus Bridge on Saturday.

In addition to those detained, Erdogan is demanding the United States arrest or extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he blamed for the attempt at overthrowing his government.

“Twenty years ago, I clearly stated my support for democracy and I said that there is no return from democracy in Turkey,” he said Saturday. “My position on democracy is really clear. Any attempts to overthrow the country is a betrayal to our unity and is treason.”

Gulen, who’s living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, denied he had anything to do with it.

“It could be anything,” Gulen told journalists. “I have been away from Turkey for 16 years.”

Tensions with the U.S.

In a country once promoted to the wider Muslim world as a model of democratic governance and economic prosperity, the attempted coup was a shocking shift for a nation which plays a crucial role in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East.

While the ramifications of the coup attempt on the NATO ally and U.S. partner in the fight against ISIS remain unclear, tensions have emerged.

Turkey closed the airspace around Incirlik Air Base, where it allows the American military to launch operations in the air campaign against terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

The Pentagon said U.S. officials were working with Turkey to resume air operations at the base.

Until that happens, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said, the U.S. is adjusting flight operations to ensure its campaign is not affected.

American airstrike missions from the base have been halted. Turkish officials told the United States the airspace has been closed until they can make sure all Turkish air force elements are in the hands of government forces, a U.S. defense official told CNN.

The base is home to the Turkish air force and the U.S. Air Force’s 39th Air Base Wing, which includes about 1,500 American personnel, according to the base website.

Turkey ‘back at work’

Erdogan has urged pro-government protesters to continue rallying.

“You know how you went out in to the squares?” he asked.

“That’s what ruined their plot. And for the next week we need to continue this solidarity, we must keep up these meetings.”

The country’s institutions were “back at work,” he said.

And to prove his point, he rounded up thousands of military officials he said were involved in the coup that killed hundreds.

At least 2,839 military officers were detained, a source in the President’s office said. The Ankara chief public prosecutor’s office took nearly 200 top Turkish court officials into custody, Anatolian News Agency reported Saturday.

The officials include 140 members of the Supreme Court and 48 members of the Council of State, one of Turkey’s three high courts.

The attempted coup

Military tanks rolled onto the streets of Ankara and Istanbul the night before and soldiers blocked the famous Bosphorus Bridge.

Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wave flags after soldiers involved in the coup attempt surrendered on Istanbul’s Bosphorus bridge on Saturday.

The military’s claim of a takeover was read on state broadcaster TRT. The military said it wanted to maintain democratic order and that the government had “lost all legitimacy.”

But the coup attempt lost momentum after Erdogan returned from vacation at the seaside resort of Marmaris. In an interview via FaceTime on CNN Turk, he appealed to his supporters to quash the attempted coup, and they took to the streets in masses.

By the time he re-emerged after hours of silence, dozens had died.

Of the nearly 200 deaths, most were police officers killed in a gun battle with a helicopter near the Parliament complex in Ankara, reported NTV, a Turkish television station. An additional 1,140 people were wounded.

Erdogan was elected Prime Minister in 2003. Under his rule, Turkey became a powerhouse in the Middle East. His reign came to an end in 2014, and his own party’s rules prevented him from seeking a fourth term.

But in a bid to maintain an important position in Turkish politics, he ran for President of the country in 2014 — and won.

The post was largely ceremonial before Erdogan’s presidency.

He has tried to change that by altering the constitution to give him more power.

Erdogan remains arguably the most powerful figure in Turkish politics, regardless of title.

CNN

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