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[ANKARA] Turkish army officers said they seized power in the country as warplanes flew over the capital and tanks blocked roads in Istanbul. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, by video link to a local TV station, said he's still in charge and urged the public to take to the streets and public squares in resistance.
Warplanes and helicopters roared over the capital Ankara. An explosion was heard in Ankara, where a helicopter opened fire.
If successful, the overthrow of Mr Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, would be one of the biggest shifts in the Middle East in years, transforming one of the most important US allies in the region while war rages on its border.
“We will overcome this,” Mr Erdogan said, speaking on a video call to a mobile phone held up to the camera by an announcer on the Turkish sister station of CNN. He called on his followers to take to the streets to defend his government and said the coup plotters would pay a heavy price.
An official said Mr Erdogan was speaking from Marmaris on the Turkish coast where he was on holiday. Mr Erdogan said he would swiftly return to Ankara.
The military said in an e-mailed statement that it took power to restore freedom and democracy. It said all international agreements will be honoured. It wasn't clear whether the whole army was involved. The state-run TV network appears to be in the control of the rebel officers and broadcast a declaration of martial law. It said the government had lost its legitimacy and been overthrown.
Soldiers took control of TRT state television, which announced a countrywide curfew and martial law. An announcer read a statement on the orders of the military that accused the government of eroding the democratic and secular rule of law. The country would be run by a “peace council” that would ensure the safety of the population, the statement said.
TRT later went off the air.
The state-run Anadolu news agency said the chief of Turkey’s military staff was among people taken “hostage” in the capital Ankara. CNN Turk also reported that hostages were being held at the military headquarters.
Airports were shut, access to Internet social media sites was cut off, and troops sealed off the two bridges over the Bosphorus in Istanbul, one of which was still lit up red, white and blue in solidarity with victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in France a day earlier.
Violent clashes continued around Erdogan's palace in Ankara. Tanks have rolled through the streets of the capital as well as in Istanbul, and warplanes buzzed low over the cities. Turkey's lira plunged as much as 6 per cent against the dollar, the most since 2010.
Since 1960, the NATO member has experienced at least three takeovers by the secular-minded army. But since the Islamist - rooted Ak Party government came to power in 2002, the political influence of the military has been trimmed.
The coup effort won't be permitted to succeed and will be repulsed "very soon," Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told NTV television. He said army units have besieged "some institutions."
Police, traditionally closer to his government than the army, have been ordered to use arms if necessary. CNN Turk television said that police fired at a military helicopter in Ankara. It wasn't immediately clear how much of the country is under military control.
One European diplomat was dining with the Turkish ambassador to a European capital when guests were interrupted by the pinging of urgent news on their mobile phones.
“This is clearly not some tinpot little coup. The Turkish ambassador was clearly shocked and is taking it very seriously,” the diplomat told Reuters as the dinner party broke up.
“However it looks in the morning, this will have massive implications for Turkey. This has not come out of nowhere.” US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking jointly after talks in Moscow, both said they hoped bloodshed would be avoided. The US State Department said Americans in Turkey should shelter indoors. Other countries issued similar advice.
READ MORE: World powers urge 'stability' in Turkey
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