Turkish parliament convenes after attempted coup leaves 265 dead

As a sign of defiance against last night's attempted putsch, Turkey's parliament convened in Ankara, in the parliament building damaged during the coup attempt, in a rare show of unity across party lines.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim attended the session and was greeted with applause as he entered, shaking the hands of some opposition politicians.

"I thank every Turkish citizen who has taken to the streets to defend democracy," Yildirim said, according to a government transcript of his remarks. "I'm so proud to be a part of this nation."

All four political parties represented in the parliament - who all opposed the coup attempt - had members attending the session.

The opposition used the opportunity to also call for a strengthening of democracy in the country.

A total of 265 people were killed in the attempted coup that played out overnight across Turkey, Yildirim said earlier Saturday, among them 161 government forces and civilians.

"Systemic operations are complete" against the attempted coup but mopping up measures could still take hours, Hakan Fidan, head of the country's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) said Saturday afternoon, according to a government official.

Meanwhile, the US consulate in the southern city of Adana said on its website that Incirlik airbase, which is used for the US-led coalition bombing campaign against the Islamic State extremist organization, had been sealed off and the power to the facility cut.

"The Turkish government has closed its airspace to military aircraft, and as a result air operations at Incirlik Air Base have been halted at this time," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in the US.

"US officials are working with the Turks to resume air operations there as soon as possible."

Aircraft in Turkey were hijacked by coup plotters during the overnight events and, according to government officials, used to attack key buildings, including the parliament building.

People took to the streets of Istanbul, lining the sides of major roads and holding the red and white Turkish flag in support of the civilian government during the course of Saturday.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was photographed by state-run news agency Anadolu meeting and greeting supporters on the Asian side of Istanbul.

Erdogan launched an operation to purge the armed forces of traitorous elements early Saturday, hours after a group within the Turkish military announced it was seizing power to restore order.

The military made large-scale deployments in Ankara and Istanbul as well as other cities, shutting down key bridges and taking control of Istanbul's Ataturk international airport. Erdogan appeared on broadcaster CNN Turk calling for people to take to the streets to protest the rebellion.

The uprising appeared to have been largely crushed after aerial bombings, military blockades and clashes between mobs and armed forces were reported overnight across Turkey.

Government officials said 104 of those killed were coup plotters or sympathizers. Yildirim said 1,140 people had also been injured.

The government has so far detained 2,839 military personnel, with the number of arrests expected to rise, the prime minister added.

Turkey's top judicial body HSYK also dismissed 2,745 judges on Saturday, according to Anadolu. Additionally, 10 members of the HSYK have been detained.

"I welcome the strong support shown by the people and all political parties to democracy and to the democratically elected [government] of Turkey," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel "fiercely" condemned the attempted coup.

"It is and will stay the right of the people to decide their leader through free elections."

But the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) appealed for restraint in the wake of the uprising.

"All those that carry responsibility must adhere to the rules of democracy and the rule of law and must prevent any further bloodshed," said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who serves as chairman of the OSCE.

Amnesty International urged Turkey not to use the death penalty against detained putschists after government supporters chanted during demonstrations for the use of capital punishment.

The attempted coup was carried out by "a group within the military" acting "outside of the chain of command," the president's office said earlier.

Erdogan had blamed the coup attempt on US-based religious leader Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic preacher and one-time ally who fell from Erdogan's good graces for allegedly orchestrating a corruption scandal in 2012 and running a "parallel state."

Gulen has condemned the rebellion, saying "governments should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force."

Meanwhile, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his Greek counterpart has promised to "soon" extradite the eight people involved in the coup attempt who fled to Greece, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Last update: Sat, 16/07/2016 - 18:21

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