ISTANBUL, Turkey — Two days after a failed military coup, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed a continued crackdown on those behind it — and those perceived to have been involved — as large crowds heeded his call to fill the nation’s streets.
Thousands of soldiers have been arrested and hundreds of judiciary members removed since Friday’s uprising, which left at least 290 people dead and more than 1,400 injured in a chaotic night of violence.
Around 6,000 people have been detained and arrests will continue, according to Turkey’s foreign ministry.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has vowed that “they will pay a heavy price.” Erdogan said that he will remove the “viruses” from all state institutions.
The arrests include Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, commander of the Incirlik Air Base, according to the Turkish President’s office. The United States uses the airbase to launch airstrikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
An “order of detention” for Col. Ali Yazici, a senior military aide to Erdogan, has also been issued, according to Anadolu.
Eight Turkish soldiers flew a helicopter to Alexandroupoli, Greece, hours after the failed coup attempt, where they were arrested and charged with “illegal entrance” into Greece. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said they would be extradited within “15 to 20 days,” Erdogan said Sunday in a speech outside his Istanbul residence.
Clashes occurred Sunday between security forces and coup plotters resisting arrest nearly 200 miles south of Ankara at Konya Airbase, a source told CNN. The government is now in control of the situation, the source said.
Erdogan attended a funeral on Sunday held for some of those killed during gunfire — including the brother of his chief adviser, Mustafa Varank.
“It is not anything ordinary that my young brothers lay under tank pellets; this is a manifest of faith,” Erdogan said.
He also said he did not rule out bringing back the death penalty for the coup’s perpetrators.
As the crowd chanted “we want the death penalty,” he said, “we can’t ignore the people’s request in a democracy — this is your right.”
“This right has to be evaluated by the appropriate authorities according to the constitution and a decision can be made,” Erdogan said in the address broadcast live on TV.
He asked supporters to stay on guard.
“You should fill the squares. This isn’t a 12-hour operation. We will continue determinedly.”
View from the streets
In a rare show of unity, Turkey’s political parties united to denounce Friday’s coup attempt, but it’s uncertain how long that solidarity will last.
Erdogan remains a divisive figure in Turkey. “He’s loved and worshiped by a good half of the country,” CNN’s Gul Tuysuz says. “The other half detests him passionately.”
Indeed there was concern among some opposition figures that the President’s triumphant call to action would only embolden his tightening grip on Turkey.
“My august nation gave the best answer to the coup plotters,” he said Sunday and told his followers to keep up the pressure.
The coup attempt comes as a shock to a country more familiar with tackling outside threats such as ISIS and the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
For now, Erdogan has urged pro-government protesters to continue rallying, saying: “That’s what ruined their plot.
But even as government leaders declare it’s business as usual in Turkey, many people are grappling with the fallout from Friday’s bloody uprising.
“Many people are confused by the President’s reaction to this uprising — by his calls to have his followers continuously go out into the streets and create what can only be described as something of a festive atmosphere,” said CNN’s Arwa Damon in Istanbul.
“At the end of the day, this is a country that is also trying to come to terms with the fact that around 200 of its citizens were just killed.”
European Council President Donald Tusk took to Twitter saying the European Union will be watching closely. Turkey is not an EU member, but it’s a crucial partner in managing the refugee crisis.
Erdogan blames Gulen
In addition to those detained, Erdogan is demanding the United States arrest or extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he blamed for the attempt to overthrow the government.
“Twenty years ago, I clearly stated my support for democracy and I said that there is no return from democracy in Turkey,” Gulen said Saturday. “My position on democracy is really clear. Any attempts to overthrow the country is a betrayal to our unity and is treason.”
Gulen, who is living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, denied he had anything to do with it.
“It could be anything,” Gulen told journalists. “I have been away from Turkey for 16 years.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States hadn’t yet received a formal request from Turkey for Gulen’s extradition.
“We think it’s irresponsible to have an accusation of American involvement when we’re simply waiting for their request — which we’re absolutely prepared to act on if it meets the legal standard,” Kerry said.
Tensions with the United States
In a country once promoted to the wider Muslim world as a model of democratic governance and economic prosperity, the attempted coup was a shocking shift. The nation plays a crucial role in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East.
The ramifications of the coup attempt on the NATO ally and U.S. partner in the fight against ISIS remain unclear.
Turkey has reopened the airspace around Incirlik Air Base, where it allows the American military to launch operations in the air campaign against terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
The airbase was closed after the attempted coup and its commander detained for his alleged involvement in the uprising.
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.
The attempted coup
Military tanks rolled onto the streets of Ankara and Istanbul the night before and soldiers blocked the famous Bosphorus Bridge.
The military’s claim of a takeover was read on state broadcaster TRT. The military said it wanted to maintain democratic order and that the government had “lost all legitimacy.”
But the coup attempt lost momentum after Erdogan returned from vacation at the seaside resort of Marmaris. In an interview via FaceTime on CNN Turk, he appealed to supporters to quash the attempted coup, and they took to the streets in masses.
By the time he re-emerged after hours of silence, dozens had died.
Most of those who died were police officers killed in a gunbattle with a helicopter near the Parliament complex in Ankara, reported NTV, a Turkish television station. An additional 1,400 people were wounded.
Erdogan was elected Prime Minister in 2003. Under his rule, Turkey became a powerhouse in the Middle East. His reign came to an end in 2014, and his own party’s rules prevented him from seeking a fourth term.
But in a bid to maintain an important position in Turkish politics, he ran for President in 2014 — and won.
The post was largely ceremonial before Erdogan’s presidency.
He has tried to change that by altering the constitution to give him more power.
Erdogan remains arguably the most powerful figure in Turkish politics, regardless of title.