Turkey's Erdogan appears among crowds in Istanbul after coup attempt

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Tanks and Gunfire on Istanbul Streets During Attempted Coup

UPDATE: The attempted coup by a section of Turkey's military was an act of treason and is a reason to "clean up" the armed forces, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on early on Saturday, hours after the armed forces attempted to overthrow him. He said he would stay with his "people" and not go anywhere.

Erodgan also said in comments broadcast live on private station NTV that the attempted coup was the work of followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a cleric Erdogan has long accused of attempting to use his followers in the judiciary and military to overthrow the government.

Erdogan said millions were in the streets protesting the coup attempt, which he described as the work of followers of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Erdogan emerged to crowds of supporters at Istanbul's main Ataturk airport early on Saturday after what officials said had been a coup attempt by a faction within the armed forces, footage on broadcaster NTV showed.

Turkey's Fox TV meanwhile broadcast a recording of Erdogan speaking earlier in the night, saying an uprising had been attempted against the solidarity and unity of the country but that no power was above the national will.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE CONTINUES BELOW:

Turkish fighter jets shot down a military helicopter over the capital Ankara that was being used by plotters attempting a coup, broadcaster NTV said on Saturday.

Separately, Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency said 17 police were killed at special forces headquarters in Ankara. Reuters was not immediately able to confirm that report.

Turkey's military said on Friday it had seized power but President Tayyip Erdogan vowed that the attempted coup would be put down.

If successful, the overthrow of 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 U.S. allies while war rages on its border. Even if it fails, the coup attempt could destabilize a pivotal country in the region.

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Possible military coup in Turkey
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Possible military coup in Turkey
People take cover near a bridge during an attempted coup in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Yagiz Karahan
Turkish solders stay with weapons at Taksim square as people protest agaist the military coup in Istanbul on July 16, 2016. Turkish military forces on July 16 opened fire on crowds gathered in Istanbul following a coup attempt, causing casualties, an AFP photographer said. The soldiers opened fire on grounds around the first bridge across the Bosphorus dividing Europe and Asia, said the photographer, who saw wounded people being taken to ambulances. / AFP / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish solders stay with weapons at Taksim square as people protest agaist the military coup in Istanbul on July 16, 2016. Turkish military forces on July 16 opened fire on crowds gathered in Istanbul following a coup attempt, causing casualties, an AFP photographer said. The soldiers opened fire on grounds around the first bridge across the Bosphorus dividing Europe and Asia, said the photographer, who saw wounded people being taken to ambulances. / AFP / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
People demonstrate outside Ataturk international airport during an attempted coup in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
ANKARA, TURKEY - JULY 16: People react against military coup attempt, at Kizilay square in Ankara, Turkey on July 16, 2016. (Photo by Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A group of approximately 50 young citizens of Turkey hold their national flag and shout slogans in support for Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan and his government, in Sarajevo on early on July 16, 2016. Turkish citizens, mostly students who reside in Bosnian capital, responded to Erdogan's call for citizens to get out on the streets and show support for Turkey's government during the military coup. / AFP / ELVIS BARUKCIC (Photo credit should read ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish military block access to the Bosphorus bridge, which links the city's European and Asian sides, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
Turkish security officers detain Turkish police officers (in black) on July 15, 2016 in Istanbul, during a security shutdown of the Bosphorus Bridge. The Turkish military on July 15 said that it had assumed power over Turkey, in what the prime minister has termed an illegal act. 'The power in the country has been seized in its entirety,' said a military statement read on NTV television, without giving further details. The military's website was not immediately accessible. / AFP / Yasin AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - JULY 15 : 'There is an uprising attempt from within the army,' says Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. 'Those who are doing this will be punished in the hardest way.' (Photo by Ahmet zgi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JULY 15: Turkish soldiers block Istanbul's Bosphorus Brigde on July 15, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul's bridges across the Bosphorus, the strait separating the European and Asian sides of the city, have been closed to traffic. Reports have suggested that a group within Turkey's military have attempted to overthrow the government. Security forces have been called in as Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim denounced an 'illegal action' by a military 'group', with bridges closed in Istanbul and aircraft flying low over the capital of Ankara. (Photo by Gokhan Tan/Getty Images)
Turkish soldiers block Istanbul's iconic Bosporus Bridge on Friday, July 15, 2016, lit in the colours of the French flag in solidarity with the victims of Thursday's attack in Nice, France. A group within Turkey's military has engaged in what appeared to be an attempted coup, the prime minister said, with military jets flying over the capital and reports of vehicles blocking two major bridges in Istanbul. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told NTV television: "it is correct that there was an attempt," when asked if there was a coup. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
A Turkish soldier stands on guard on the side of the road on July 15, 2016 in Istanbul, during a security shutdown of the Bosphorus Bridge. The Turkish military on July 15 said that it had assumed power over Turkey, in what the prime minister has termed an illegal act. 'The power in the country has been seized in its entirety,' said a military statement read on NTV television, without giving further details. The military's website was not immediately accessible. / AFP / Yasin AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish security officers detain Turkish police officers (in black) on July 15, 2016 in Istanbul, during a security shutdown of the Bosphorus Bridge. The Turkish military on July 15 said that it had assumed power over Turkey, in what the prime minister has termed an illegal act. 'The power in the country has been seized in its entirety,' said a military statement read on NTV television, without giving further details. The military's website was not immediately accessible. / AFP / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - JULY 15 : 'There is an uprising attempt from within the army,' says Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. 'Those who are doing this will be punished in the hardest way.' (Photo by Ahmet zgi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - JULY 15 : 'There is an uprising attempt from within the army,' says Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. 'Those who are doing this will be punished in the hardest way.' (Photo by Ahmet zgi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - JULY 15 : 'There is an uprising attempt from within the army,' says Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. 'Those who are doing this will be punished in the hardest way.' (Photo by Ahmet zgi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Police officers stand guard near the Turkish military headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Tumay Berkin TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Turkish military block access to the Bosphorus bridge, which links the city's European and Asian sides, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
Turkish soldiers are seen on the Asian side of Istanbul, Friday, July 15, 2016. A group within Turkey's military has engaged in what appeared to be an attempted coup, the prime minister said, with military jets flying over the capital and reports of vehicles blocking two major bridges in Istanbul. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told NTV television: "it is correct that there was an attempt," when asked if there was a coup. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
An injured man is carried near a bridge during an attempted coup in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Yagiz Karahan
A group within Turkey's military has attempted to overthrow the government, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said as security forces closed bridges along the Bosphorus and descended on Ankara and Istanbul.
A group within Turkey's military has attempted to overthrow the government, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said as security forces closed bridges along the Bosphorus and descended on Ankara and Istanbul.
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"We will overcome this," 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 Erdogan was speaking from Marmaris on the Turkish coast where he was on holiday. Erdogan said he would swiftly return to Ankara.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and other senior officials said the elected government remained in office. Yildirim called the coup attempt a terrorist act by gangs and illegal formations.

Television images showed scores of people, some waving Turkish flags, gathered in major squares in main city Istanbul and capital Ankara to show support for the elected government. Gunfire broke out in both cities.

Warplanes and helicopters roared over Ankara and explosions could be heard there. Reuters reporters saw a helicopter open fire. State-run news agency Anadolu said military helicopters had fired on the headquarters of the intelligence agency.

Reuters journalists saw tanks open fire near the parliament building in Ankara, which they had surrounded.

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.

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.

Anadolu 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.

NOT A TINPOT COUP

A senior EU source monitoring the situation said: "It looks like a relatively well orchestrated coup by a significant body of the military, not just a few colonels. They've got control of the airports and are expecting control over the TV station imminently. They control several strategic points in Istanbul.

"Given the scale of the operation, it is difficult to imagine they will stop short of prevailing. It's not just a few colonels," the source repeated.

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."

U.S. 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 U.S. State Department said Americans in Turkey should shelter indoors. Other countries issued similar advice.

Turkey, a NATO member with the second biggest military in the Western alliance, is one of the most important allies of the United States in the fight against Islamic State, which seized swathes of neighboring Iraq and Syria.

Turkey is one of the main backers of opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country's civil war, host to 2.7 million Syrian refugees and launchpad last year for the biggest influx of migrants to Europe since World War Two.

WATCH: Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the attempted coup:

Sec. Kerry addresses situation in Turkey

Celebratory gunfire erupted in Syria's capital Damascus as reports emerged that Erdogan had been toppled. People took the streets to celebrate there and in other government-held cities.

Turkey has been at war with Kurdish separatists, and has suffered numerous bombing and shooting attacks this year, including an attack two weeks ago by Islamists at Istanbul's main airport that killed more than 40 people.

In an earlier statement sent by email and reported on TV channels, the military said it had taken power to protect the democratic order and to maintain human rights. All of Turkey's existing foreign relations would be maintained and the rule of law would remain the priority, it said.

After serving as prime minister from 2003, Erdogan was elected president in 2014 with plans to alter the constitution to give the previously ceremonial presidency far greater executive powers.

Turkey has enjoyed an economic boom during his time in office and has dramatically expanded its influence across the region. But opponents say his rule has become increasingly authoritarian.

His AK Party, with roots in Islamism, has long had a strained relationship with the military and nationalists in a state that was founded on secularist principles after World War One. The military has a history of mounting coups to defend secularism, but has not seized power directly since 1980.

Prime Minister Yildirim said a group within Turkey's military had attempted to overthrow the government and security forces have been called in to "do what is necessary."

"Some people illegally undertook an illegal action outside of the chain of command," Yildirim said in comments broadcast by private channel NTV.

"The government elected by the people remains in charge. This government will only go when the people say so."

(Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley, Nick Tattersall, David Dolan, Akin Aytekin and Orhan Coskun; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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