International desk – Nearly 3,000 soldiers have been arrested and 2,700 judges fired in Turkey as the government began clamp down on those it suspects of having links to an attempted coup.
At least 265 people were killed during the attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, officials said Saturday.
Erdogan is demanding that the United States arrest or extradite Fethullah Gulen, a cleric and former ally he blames for the failed coup attempt the night before, according to CNN broadcaster.
Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, has denied any connection to the coup attempt and said he condemned it. “This country suffered a lot in the hands of the Gulen movement,” Erdogan told supporters.
Turkey’s government said Saturday it was firmly in control after a coup attempt the night before sparked violence and chaos, leaving 161 people dead.
Friday’s uprising by some members of the military is the latest worrying example of deteriorating stability in a country that a few years ago was being promoted to the wider Muslim world as a model of democratic governance and economic prosperity.
Some 14 years after Erdogan’s political party swept to power in elections, Turkey once again teeters on the brink.
The turmoil exposes deep discontent within the military ranks and a defiant Erdogan has vowed to purge those traitorous elements. But less than 24 hours after the attempted putsch, questions remained about who masterminded it and why they decided to act now.
Thousands of military officers have been arrested, including the commander of Turkey’s 2nd army, General Adem Huduti.
Turkish military authorities, meanwhile, closed the airspace around Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base — the site Turkey allows the United States to use for operations related to its air campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the Pentagon said in a statement.
“U.S. officials are working with the Turks to resume air operations there as soon as possible,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said.
“In the meantime, U.S. Central Command is adjusting flight operations in the counter-ISIL campaign to minimize any effects on the campaign.”
American airstrike missions from that location have been halted. Turkish officials told the United States the airspace has been closed until they can make sure all Turkish air force elements are in the hands of pro-government forces, a U.S. defense official told CNN on Saturday.
Still, a small number of U.S. planes on missions before the airspace closed were allowed to land at Incirlik, the official said.
Earlier, the U.S. consulate in Adana reported that power to the base had been cut and authorities were preventing movement on and off the site. The consulate warned U.S. citizens to avoid the area.
Cook said U.S. facilities were operating on internal power sources and the shutdown of commercial power has not affected base operations. He said defense department personnel in the area were “safe and secure.”
The base is home to the Turkish Air Force and the U.S. Air Force’s 39th Air Base Wing, which includes about 1,500 American personnel, according to the base website.