Turkish officials say coup attempt failed; ‘Things are getting better every minute’

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan returned to Istanbul early Saturday morning to reassure his citizens that an attempted coup had failed.

A senior official told The Associated Press around 3:20 a.m. local time that all government officials are in charge of their offices, but cautioned that the chief of military staff hasn’t appeared in public yet.

About 30 minutes after those proclamations, two large explosions were heard near Taksim square in Istanbul, where police and military were exchanging fire.

But by 4:40 a.m., the president held a press conference and announced that although his general secretary was abducted by coup makers and there is no information on the chief of the military staff, the coup was over and they were just “a minority within the military.”

He said: “Those who drive around in tanks will have to go back to where they came from…The most important thing right now is that millions of Turkish citizens are on the streets at 4.30 a.m.”

NTV television, quoting the prosecutor’s office in Ankara, said around 5:30 a.m. that at least 42 people were killed in the “attacks” in the capital.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yildirim, speaking on NTV, says he has ordered the “annihilation” of military planes used by coup plotters. He says military jets have taken off from an air base in Eskisehir, east of Ankara.

According to a state-run television station, a bomb hit the Turksih parliament building in Ankara around 2:50 a.m. local time, just minutes after the Turkish national intelligence spokesman said the coup had been “repelled.” CNN-Turk television reported some police officers and parliament workers were hurt in the bomb attack.

Turkey’s national intelligence agency spokesman Nuh Yilmaz said that Gen. Hulusi Akar, the military chief of staff, was back in control, though now those reports are being called into question.

Yilmaz said “Gen. Akar is back on top of his duties.” He added: “everything is returning to normal.”

Around 2 a.m. local time in Turkey, 17 police officers were killed while in the police special forces headquarters after a military helicopter attacked the station.

Around 1:30 a.m., Turkey’s armed forces said they had “fully seized control” of the country, according to a statement from the military published by a Turkish news agency, though the government continued to call it an attempt.

The Dogan agency reported at that time that the military said in a statement it launched the coup “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 military statement went on to say that “all international agreements and commitments will remain. We pledge that good relations with all world countries will continue.”

The TRT television station also showed a statement from the military faction, which cited rising autocratic rule and increased terrorism as reasons for the coup.

Meanwhile, gunfire was heard outside military headquarters Friday night as fighter jets buzzed over the capital and military vehicles blocked the Bosphorus Strait and Faith bridges, which connect Asia and Europe.

About two hours after the first reports of a coup were released, reports indicated that soldiers blocking the Bosphorus bridge began firing on those who were trying to cross it in protest of the coup. Initial reports are that some people were injured.

Ataturk Airport was also shut down, and all flights have been suspended. A curfew was also put in play until further notice.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim confirmed the situation to NTV television around 11 a.m., saying, “It is correct that there was an attempt.” That was the first report of a coup.

Yildirim didn’t provide details at the time, but said Turkey would never allow any “initiative that would interrupt democracy.”

“We are focusing on the possibility of an attempt,” Yildirim said. “There was an illegal act by a group within the military that was acting out of the chain of military command. Our people should know that we will not allow any activity that would harm democracy.”

President Erdogan downplayed the developing situation later on. Speaking through Facetime to CNN Turk at 12:50 a.m., he called the military actions “an attempt at an uprising by a minority within our armed forces.” He also called on citizens to take to the streets in show of support for the current government, which they did, as seen in photos.

“I have never recognized any power above the will of the people,” Erdogan said.

Turkey’s prime minister is the head of government and leader of the parliament’s party in power and is appointed to the position, while the president is elected every five years and is the head of state.

United States Secretary of State John Kerry said after hearing the news that he hopes for stability, peace and continuity in Turkey. Also, the state department has recommended that U.S. citizens who are currently in Turkey “shelter in place & stay indoors. Update family/friends of your status when possible.”

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The government remained steadfast all along: “There are certain groups who took the arms trusted to them by the state and pointed them toward state employees,” Prime Minister Yildirim said. “We shall determine soon who they are. Our security forces have acted against these groups.”

With additional reporting by CNN.