ANKARA / ISTANBUL: Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Saturday 161 people were killed in the coup attempt against the government, with 2,839 soldiers now detained on suspicion of involvement.
Yildirim, speaking outside his Cankaya palace in Ankara and flanked by top general Hulusi Akar who was held during the coup attempt, also described the putsch bid as a “black stain” on Turkish democracy. He added that 1,440 people had been wounded.
A Turkish army faction backed by tanks and fighter jets staged an attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday but the strongman returned to Istanbul defiantly claiming to have regained control.
The toll 161 did not include the assailants, he emphasised. Turkey’s acting army chief Umit Dundar had earlier said 104 putschists had been killed.
Yildirim blamed the coup attempt on the supporters of US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara has for years accused of working to overthrow the authorities and wants to see brought to justice.
The United States has shown little interest so far to Turkey’s requests for his extradition.
“Fethullah Gulen is the leader of a terrorist organisation,” the premier said.
“Whichever country is behind him is not a friend of Turkey and in a serious war against Turkey,” he added.
Erdogan predicted that the move would fail and crowds of supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came out onto the streets to try to block the putsch.
Crowds of people, some waving Turkish flags, gathered in major squares in Istanbul and Ankara to show support for the elected government.
After hours of chaos unseen in decades, the president ended uncertainty over his whereabouts, flying into Istanbul airport in the early hours of the morning where he made a defiant speech and was greeted by hundreds of supporters.
Erdogan denounced the coup attempt as “treachery” but said he was carrying out his functions and would keep on working “to the end”.
“What is being perpetrated is a treason and a rebellion. They will pay a heavy price for this act of treason,” Erdogan said at Istanbul’s airport. “We will not leave our country to occupiers.”
Turkish military chief rescued after being held during coup bid
The head of Turkey’s armed forces was rescued after being held hostage during the attempted coup.
Hulusi Akar had been held by rebel soldiers during the attempted coup, Turkish broadcasters said.
Social media access restricted
Access was restricted in Turkey on Friday to Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube shortly after news that a military coup was under way, according to two internet monitoring groups.
Turkey Blocks, a group that monitors internet shutdowns in the country, and Dyn, which monitors internet performance and traffic globally, both reported it was difficult or impossible to access social media services in Turkey.
After serving as prime minister from 2003, Erdogan was elected president in 2014 with plans to alter the constitution to give the previously ceremonial presidency far greater executive powers.
Turkey has enjoyed an economic boom during his time in office and has dramatically expanded its influence across the region. But opponents say his rule has become increasingly authoritarian.
Pakistan expresses solidarity with Turkish people
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Syed Tariq Fatemi telephoned Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu and expressed solidarity.
The Turkish foreign minister thanked the government and the people of Pakistan for showing resolve to stand by democracy in Turkey.