UPDATE, 8:29 AM: CNN-Turk has been showing images of dozens of soldiers surrendering to government forces on Istanbul’s Bosporus Bridge, as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan continues to maintain he’s in control after the attempted overnight military coup. With hands raised, they’re walking among tanks on the bridge. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim was quoted by CNN-Turk saying that the commander of Turkey’s 1st Army, Gen. Umit Dundar, has been appointed acting chief of military staff in the absence of Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, who reportedly had been taken hostage at the military headquarters by coup plotters. Erdogan earlier said he had no information about Akar.
PREVIOUS UPDATE, Friday, 10:15 PM: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims he is in control after the attempted military coup in Turkey overnight, but confusion still reigns in the NATO country. There are still-unconfirmed reports of scores of people killed, and the government says hundreds have been arrested. U.S. cable news networks late Friday showed images of Turkish soldiers abandoning their tanks on the Bosphorus Bridge and surrendering en masse, and Erdogan talked tough about punishing those who had taken up arms against civilians. Military units attacked government buildings, and a photo was shown of damage to the Parliamentary building in the capital of Ankara that appeared to be caused by a tank round or other large weapon. As morning broke in the country that rests between Europe and the Middle East, this much was known: It remained unclear exactly who was in charge.
PREVIOUSLY, 6:50 PM: Erdogan landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, after which he addressed the nation – and cable news viewers in the U.S. Those viewers may have been surprised to hear him call the coup attempt a “a gift from god” that will “help us cleanse our military from members of this gang” of traitors who had been “told what to do from Pennsylvania.” That’s a reference to retired Islamic cleric, and former Erdogen ally, Fetullah Gulen, now living in the Poconos. According to Tribune-owned Allentown, PA-based Morning Call, Turkey’s president has spent two years purging the military, police and judiciary of those he deemed Gulen sympathizers, and has attempted to have Gulen extradited, claiming the cleric supports terrorists.
Previous, 5:50 PM: CNN Turk, which had telecast Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s FaceTime message to citizens this evening, insisting “I am still the President” and urging them to take to the streets and resist the military coup attempt, tweeted it has been shut down by soldiers:
CNN’s Anderson Cooper said, on air, that CNN Turk anchor told them, “We don’t know how much longer we can continue our broadcast. We will try to continue our broadcast until the last moment.” At 5:58 pm PT that the anchor reported that soldiers “entered about 5 or 10 minutes ago.” Later, it was reported there had been at least one shooting in the building, audio of which came across the news outlet’s airwaves.
All that, after state-owned TRT tweeted that the attempted coup has bombed their HQ:
This after Turkey’s National Intelligence Unit claimed the coup is over, while confrontations between military and demonstrators continued.
Previous: U.S. cable news networks erupted when Turkish TV reported martial law has been imposed in that country, Turkish state broadcaster TRT went off the air, military units patrolled the streets and seized bridges. Ataturk Airport quickly was shut down and flights bound for the airport were diverted, MSNBC reported.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had been on vacation and initially unable to return to his palace, resorted to addressing the nation via FaceTime, insisting “I am still the President” and urging citizens to take to the street.
U.S. cable news networks aired live footage of thousands of citizens doing just that, including on Istanbul’s Bosporus bridge, where U.S. cable news nets caught footage of soldiers firing and people hitting the ground.
“This is drama, and it’s television — it’s perfect television drama because we can actually watch it!” marveled MSNBC’s
Chris Matthews as his network aired footage of a mob storming Turkish national TV station TRT. “If this is what we
think, this is the call from Erdogan, the president who’s in power right now being threatened by a military coup…he’s able to take the people of Turkey to the street and create a new reality, where the military would be forced to ether shoot people by the thousands…or be forced down,” Matthews continued. As footage appeared to show citizens storming Istanbul Ataturk Airport, and taking over the TV station, Matthews wondered if the coup would be “overwhelmed by popular sentiment” and Erdogan, ” just by talking to the people, able to defeat the military.”
On FaceTime, Erdogan had said, “I’m making a call out to my people. I’m inviting them out to all our public squares. I’m inviting them out to our airports. Let us gather in our squares, at our airports as the people and let that minority group come upon as with their tanks and artillery and do whatever they wish to do.” This, according to AP.
Turkey’s state-run news operation Anadolu Agency reported 17 police officers were killed in a helicopter attack on police special forces headquarters on the outskirts of Ankara. U.S. cable networks got footage of a bomb that was detonated outside the Turkish parliament building in that capital city.
NBC News reported early in the coup attempt that a senior US military source said Erdogan was on vacation when the coup occurred, and seeking asylum in Germany. The news operation later shut down that report.
Access to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube was blocked in Turkey soon after reports of a coup emerged, according to Reuters. Turkish state broadcaster TRT went off the air; CNN-Turk reported an explosion at the state-run TV building, as loud explosions were heard in Turkey’s capital Ankara.
The military said it seized control “to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for the law and order to be reinstated.”
The statement added, “all international agreements and commitments will remain. We pledge that good relations with all world countries will continue.”
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara issued an emergency message: “We encourage U.S. citizens to shelter in place and do not go the U.S. Embassy or Consulates at this time…Monitor local press for updates, avoid areas of conflict, and exercise caution if you are in the vicinity of any military or security forces.”
The White House conveyed its position elliptically, by sharing with press a readout of President Obama’s call with Secretary of State John Kerry:
“The President spoke tonight by phone with Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the events in Turkey,” the readout said, stating the obvious.
“The President and Secretary agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected Government of Turkey, show restraint, and avoid any violence or bloodshed.”
“The Secretary underscored that the State Department will continue to focus on the safety and security of U.S. citizens in Turkey. The President asked the Secretary to continue to keep him updated as the situation unfolds.”
So, there’s that.
As MSNBC was reporting on the “readout” bit about avoiding violence and bloodshed, the network was airing live footage of hundreds diving for the ground at a location in Istanbul, as rounds of rapid gunfire could be heard.