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Turkish Leaders Say Military Coup Attempt Has Failed


Government leaders in Turkey say a coup attempt this evening has failed. Turkish television shows President Recep Tayyip Erdogan among supporters outside the airport in Istanbul. He told the crowd, no power is above the national will. But there are still reports of confrontations in the streets and explosions in the capital, Ankara.

It is now just after 4 in the morning in Turkey. Earlier tonight members of the armed forces declared that they had taken control of the country. In response, President Erdogan called on Turkish people to go out and show support for his government.

The country plays an important role in the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS. The U.S. pledged its support to Turkey's government. Secretary of State John Kerry also urged Americans in Turkey to stay indoors. Journalist Dalia Mortada is in Istanbul, and she joins us now via Skype. Welcome to the program.

DALIA MORTADA: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Such a chaotic night with so much uncertainty - can you say who is controlling the country right now?

MORTADA: The question - I wish the question was much more - you know, the answer to that question was much more simple. I think - the government is controlling the country right now. We still have the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the president. There is a lot of activity. There is a lot of confusion going on. But it does appear that the coup - the attempted coup has not succeeded, at least not as of right now.

SHAPIRO: And yet at the same time we are getting reports that in the capital Ankara, the parliament building has been hit by explosions. What can you tell us about that?

MORTADA: Yes, live on television we were witnessing these massive explosions, sparks flying everywhere and large plumes of smoke hitting parliament. There's been reportedly three large explosions like that, but we're not hearing anything from within parliament as to injuries or anything like that.

SHAPIRO: And are we to conclude that this is the faction of the military that was trying to overthrow the government attacking Turkey's own parliament?

MORTADA: Presumably that's what we're understanding.

SHAPIRO: Now, we've also seen crowds in the streets, people taking to Taksim Square, the main square in Istanbul. Have you spoken to people who are out in the streets tonight, and can you tell us what you've heard from them?

MORTADA: Well, my neighbors were just milling about in the street. So when the attempted coup began, the military had imposed the - a curfew. And so people - but no one was really abiding by that. People were out in the street talking about what was going on kind of in disbelief. And then later on in the evening, just people took - went inside and are just watching what's going on. No one really expected this to come.

That being said, especially after President Erdogan and other leaders in the AKP - the party that governs Turkey - condemned the coup and encouraged people to take to the streets, large groups of supporters of the AKP went to Taksim Square, went to the airport to greet Erdogan coming back from his vacation in Bodrum reportedly and in other parts of the city.

SHAPIRO: And you say this was not expected, and yet there were certainly tensions building to this point.

MORTADA: Oh, absolutely. There were definitely tensions building to this point, but to the extent that a coup from a faction of the military which has been significantly weakened under Erdogan and the AKP over the last decade and a half just wasn't really on most people's radars. There has been a lot of tension, a lot of political tension. There's been a lot of criticism of the government for consolidating power under Erdogan and - but to this extent, it was definitely not expected.

SHAPIRO: All right. Reporter Dalia Mortada in Istanbul - we will have more updates as the evening unfolds - thank you very much.

MORTADA: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.