Turkey widened a crackdown on suspected supporters of a failed military coup on Sunday, taking the number of people rounded up in the armed forces and judiciary to 6,000, and the government said it was in control of the country and economy.
President Tayyip Erdogan and the government accused the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally whom Erdogan accuses of trying to create a “parallel structure” within the courts, police, armed forces and media, of orchestrating the coup.
Erdogan’s supporters of gathered in front of his Istanbul home to call for the plotters to face the death penalty, which Turkey outlawed in 2004 as part of its efforts to join the European Union.
“We cannot ignore this demand,” Erdogan told the chanting crowd. “In democracies, whatever the people say has to happen.”
He said a “terror group” led by Gulen had “ruined” the armed forces, that its members were being arrested in all military ranks, and that a purge of this “virus” would continue. Gulen denied any connection with the coup.
The president has called on Turks to stay on the streets until Friday, and late into Sunday night, his supporters thronged squares and streets, honking horns and waving flags.
Pictures on social media showed detained soldiers stripped to the waist, some wearing only their underpants, handcuffed and lying packed together on the floor of a sports hall where they were being held in Ankara.
One video posted on Twitter showed detained generals with bruises and bandages. Akin Ozturk, head of the air force until 2015 and identified by three senior officials as one of the suspected masterminds of the coup plot, was among those held.
The Foreign Ministry raised the death toll to more than 290, including over 100 rebels, and said 1,400 people were hurt.
The violence shocked the nation of almost 80 million, once seen as a model Muslim democracy, where living standards have risen steadily for more than a decade and where the army last used force to stage a successful coup more than 30 years ago.
It also shattered fragile confidence among Turkey’s allies about security in the NATO country, which is a leading member of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State. Turkey had already been hit by repeated suicide bombings over the past year and is struggling to contain an insurgency by Kurdish separatists.
With expectations growing of a heavy clampdown on dissent, European politicians warned Erdogan the coup attempt did not give him a blank cheque to disregard the rule of law, and that he risked isolating himself internationally as he strengthens his position at home.
Broadcaster NTV cited Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag as saying more arrests were expected.
By Sunday evening, authorities had rounded up nearly 3,000 suspected military plotters, ranging from top commanders to foot soldiers, and the same number of judges and prosecutors after forces loyal to Erdogan crushed the attempted coup on Saturday.
Among those arrested was General Bekir Ercan Van, commander of the Incirlik air base from which U.S. aircraft launch air strikes on Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, an official said. Erdogan’s chief military assistant was also detained, the broadcaster CNN Turk said.
Saudi Arabia detained Turkey’s military attache to Kuwait at Turkey’s request, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV said.
Security forces also clashed with remnants of the coup plotters at Istanbul’s second airport on Sunday and at an air base in central Turkey, an official said, adding that arrests had been made and the situation was under control.
On Saturday, Labour Minister Suleyman Soylu told the broadcaster Haberturk he believed Washington was behind the coup attempt. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described suggestions of a U.S. role as “utterly false”, and said on Sunday that Washington had had no advance intelligence of the insurrection.
The Pentagon also announced on Sunday that operations from Turkey by the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State had resumed after Ankara reopened its air space, which had been closed during the coup attempt.
However, U.S. facilities at the Incirlik base were still operating on internal power sources after Turkey cut the mains power supply. Kerry said the difficulty for U.S. planes using the base may have been a result of Turkish aircraft flown in support of the coup using it to refuel. (Courtesy Reuters)