Soldiers Told It Was A Drill: Erdogan May Have Staged Own Coup To Purge Army

Some of the soldiers detained in Turkey have reportedly told interrogators they were not aware they were part of a coup attempt.

They had been told by commanders they were taking part in military maneuvers, the Turkish Hurriyet newspaper has reported.

Some soldiers said they understood they were part of a coup when they saw civilians climb on tanks.

Turkish televisions have shown footage of soldiers surrendering to people and special forces police without resistance, their hands behind their heads.

According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, all soldiers involved in the attempted coup have been taken into custody.

A Turkish official told reporters that six senior army commanders were arrested in connection with the failed coup, including General Akin Öztürk, who in the 1990s was the Turkish military attaché to Israel.

The 64-year-old Öztürk, who later served as the commander of Turkey’s air force, served in his country’s Tel Aviv embassy from 1998 to 2000.

He stepped down as air force commander last year, but continued to serve on Turkey’s Supreme Military Council. Prior to Friday’s coup attempt he was a celebrated military leader, boasting medals from his own air force as well as from NATO.

According to a Turkish official, those behind the attempted coup had been preparing for some time to overthrow the Turkish government.

Accusations of US role

The most dramatic fallout from the event, however, was suggestions by Turkish state officials that the US was involved in the failed coup.

The accusations by Labor and Social Security Minister Suleyman Soylu, in an interview on Turkish TV, forced US Secretary of State John Kerry Turkish to call Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and warn that those claims could harm ties.

Kerry “made clear that … public insinuations or claims about any role by the United States in the failed coup attempt are utterly false and harmful to our bilateral relations,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

The first aftershock came as the Incirlik airbase used by the United States forces lost its electric power and local military authorities closed movement in and out of it.

Ankara and Washington have already clashed over US support for Kurdish militants in Syria, which Turkey regards as terrorists trying to carve out an independent state in the region.

Staged coup for crackdown?

Ankara is also angry with Washington for giving refuge to Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers Turkey blames for the failed coup.

On Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the US to extradite Gulen but Kerry suggested that his country would do so if Turkish leaders “present us with any legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny.”

Gulen said the attempted overthrow may have been staged. “There is a slight chance, there is a possibility that it could be a staged coup,” Gulen told reporters in Pennsylvania. “It could be meant for court accusations and associations.”

Turkish authorities rounded up nearly 3,000 suspected military plotters on Saturday and ordered thousands of judges detained.

Erodogan said that the coup leaders would “pay a heavy price” as his ally and deputy prime minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu announced that the government is considering bringing back the death penalty for the plotters.

“This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army,” he said in Istanbul.

French President Francois Hollande said he expected there would be a period of repression in Turkey in the aftermath of the failed coup.

A successful overthrow of Erdogan would have marked another seismic shift in the Middle East, which is grappling with a Takfiri menace and foreign-backed militants fighting to topple Iraqi and Syrian governments.

There are already suspicions that the US and its allies are creating “managed chaos” in the Middle East with the aim of weakening regional countries and propping up Israel.

Warning of further instability

Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned that the coup attempt in Turkey increases the threat to stability in the region.

“Moscow is most concerned at the latest events in Turkey,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The flare-up of the domestic political situation against the backdrop of the existing terrorist threats in this country and the armed conflict in the region brings a heightened risk to international and regional stability.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Turkey to avoid “bloodshed,” saying its problems needed to be resolved “in accordance with the constitution.”

In Iran, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani hailed “the victory of democracy and national will over a desperate bid” to topple the government.