ISTANBUL — After suppressing an attempted coup and arresting nearly 3,000 soldiers, the Turkish government Saturday blamed the uprising on an opposition figure who lives in the United States.

“Fethullah Gulen is the leader of a terrorist organization,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said of the exiled Muslim cleric, who lives in Pennsylvania. Gulen has been one of the chief political opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“We have requested his extradition from the United States. … Whichever country supports him isn’t a friend of Turkey. It is practically at war with Turkey,” Yildirim said.

More than 160 people died and 1,440 others were wounded after a night of air battles, bombings and gunfire in the capital, Ankara. The coup attempt left grave questions about Turkey’s long-term stability and its role in the fight against Islamic State extremists in neighboring Syria.

Erdogan said Saturday that the military faction responsible for the uprising “will pay a heavy price for their treason.”

The Turkish government closed its airspace to military aircraft, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said Saturday. As a result, all air operations against Islamic State originating at Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey have stopped.



Incirlik has been a critical launching point for strikes against the militant group inside Syria, which has a 500-mile border with Turkey. The U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations against Islamic State, will instead rely on U.S. aircraft based in more distant locations, such as Jordan and Qatar.

The Obama administration voiced strong support for the Erdogan government against the coup plotters.

“The United States, without any hesitation, squarely and unequivocally, stands for democratic leadership, for the respect for a democratically elected leader, and for a constitutional process in that regard,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Saturday.

He urged a proper “legal process” for the coup plotters.

Apparently alluding to Turkish demands for the Gulen’s extradition, Kerry said the U.S. would support “any legitimate investigative efforts … under due process and within the law.” Kerry said the U.S. government would entertain any “evidence that withstands U.S. scrutiny.”


Asked how the United States could be taken so off-guard by the coup, Kerry said: “Well … if you’re planning a coup, you don’t exactly advertise it to your partners in NATO. So it surprised everybody, including the people of Turkey. I must say, it does not appear to have been a very brilliantly planned or executed event.”

Meanwhile, the Dogan news agency reported that U.S.-supplied F4E warplanes, taking off from the Eskisehir base in central Anatolia, bombed the Akinci base in Ankara to prevent renegade pilots from taking off in F-16s.

The government’s apparent success in ending the coup came after a chaotic night during which there were that saw armed attacks on the national parliament and an apparent attempt to assassinate Erdogan. The last reported standoff continued throughout Saturday at the Turkish General Staff headquarters in Ankara, where government officials said about 150 soldiers were surrounded.

Among the dead were 104 soldiers identified as coup backers, the government said, while more than 2,800 members of the military were arrested.


Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he had asked Greece to extradite a group of eight “putschists” who had hijacked a helicopter and flown to Greece.


As he congratulated Turkish citizens for resisting the coup attempt, Yildirim, the prime minister, noted that the military chain of command did not support the rebels. Coup organizers detained chief of staff Gen. Hulusi Akar until a commando team rescued him Saturday.

Erdogan also attacked Gulen, though without mentioning him by name, saying he and his followers in the Turkish military were responsible for attempting to infiltrate and overthrow Turkey’s elected government.

Gulen, who has kept a low profile in Pennsylvania, leads a worldwide movement that blends a mystical form of Islam with calls for democracy, education, science and interfaith dialogue. He denied any responsibility and issued a statement condemning the coup. .

The coup attempt began at about 7:30 p.m. Friday, when a dissident military faction sent tanks to close Istanbul’s two bridges over the Bosphorus strait linking Europe with Asia. Declaring that they were in charge, the faction declared a national curfew, seized the General Staff headquarters, took over state television and sent tanks to surround the parliament. Later the faction carried out bombing raids against the parliament as well as other key security installations.

Erdogan, who had been vacationing on the Aegean coast, appealed to his followers to take to the streets in protest and said he was flying to Ankara. Instead he landed Saturday at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, where he disclosed that coup plotters had bombed the hotel in Marmaris hours after he had departed.

Erdogan could not have flown to Ankara because rebel aircraft dominated the sky. The government responded by closing the airspace over the capital and ordering its own warplanes to shoot down what it called “hijacked” government aircraft. As government supporters took to the streets to demonstrate against the coup, fighting between dissidents and loyal troops was reported through the night.

Istanbul was relatively quiet, and there was no sign that anyone was observing the nationwide curfew called by coup leaders. But starting at about 3:30 a.m., warplanes, apparently piloted by dissidents, crisscrossed the sky repeatedly at low altitudes, causing repeated sonic booms. It was apparently one of the last gasps of the rebellion.

The U.S. Embassy urged American citizens not to attempt to reach the main airports in Istanbul and Ankara.

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