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Turkey: Erdogan cries on national television as 6,000 are rounded up and arrested

It comes following Friday’s failed coup.

Updated 5.52 pm

Turkey Military Coup Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan right, wipes his tears during the funeral. Source: Emrah Gurel/PA Images

TURKISH PRESIDENT RECEP Tayyip Erdogan broke down in tears while speaking at the funeral of an old friend in Istanbul killed during the coup, images from Turkish television showed.

Erol Olcak and his 16-year-old son were shot dead on the Bosphorous bridge in the city during Friday’s attempted coup.

They had been on the bridge to protest against the putsch launched by a group within the military, according to local media.

Erdogan told the crowd of hundreds chanting Allahu akbar, “God is greatest”: “Erol was an old friend of mine.”

Unable to control his tears, Erdogan then said:

I cannot speak any further. Condolences to our nation.

The funeral came as about 6,000 people were arrested in a massive countrywide crackdown since Friday’s failed coup.

Those detained in the mass arrests include senior army commanders, judges and prosecutors and the crackdown has raised alarm bells in the international community.

Suspects are being charged with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” and “attempting to overthrow the government of the Turkish republic using force and violence”, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.

The coup has also seen increased tensions between Turkey and the US as the country’s leader bluntly demanded the extradition of a US-based cleric he accused of orchestrating the violence.

Another senior official directly blamed the United States.

Turkey Military Coup People chant slogans as they gather at a pro-government rally in central Istanbul's Taksim Square. Source: AP/Press Association Images

After strongly supporting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when it seemed his government might topple and then opening the door to sending home the cleric, a stung Obama administration fired back at its NATO ally.

“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,” US Secretary of State John Kerry told his Turkish counterpart, according to the State Department’s readout of their telephone call.

The back-and-forth occurred against the backdrop of Turkey closing its airspace, effectively grounding US warplanes that had been targeting Islamic State forces in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

At the center of the controversy stood Fethullah Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania and promotes a philosophy that blends a mystical form of Islam with staunch advocacy of democracy, education, science and interfaith dialogue.

Turkey Military Coup Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech in Istanbul yesterday. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Gulen quickly condemned Friday night’s coup attempt by military officers that resulted in a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire that left dozens dead. Erdogan’s government said Gulen directed the coup all the same.

In a televised speech yesterday, Erdogan said Turkey had never rejected a US extradition request for “terrorists.”

Meanwhile, thousands took to the streets of Turkey of Erdogan, after authorities crushed the military coup that claimed at least 265 lives.

Turkey Military Coup : People chant slogans as they gather at a pro-government rally in central Istanbul's Taksim square yesterday. Source: Bram Janssen/AP/Press Association Images

Turks woke up early Saturday to television pictures showing dozens of soldiers surrendering after the failed coup, some with their hands above their head, others forced to the ground in the streets.

Airbase closure

Although he didn’t outline any threat, Erdogan’s emphasis on US-Turkish counterterrorism cooperation raised the prospect of a prolonged closure of the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey if he didn’t get his way.

The Pentagon said it was trying to get permission to resume air operations from the base, while adjusting mission operations in the meantime.

Suleyman Soylu, Turkey’s labour minister, went further than Erdogan, suggesting the US was behind the coup.

Earlier, on a visit to Luxembourg, Kerry told reporters the US would entertain an extradition request for Gulen if the Turks provided evidence of wrongdoing.

Russia US U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Erdogan has long accused Gulen, a former ally, of trying to overthrow the government, but Washington has never found the claims compelling.

Significant support

“We fully anticipate that there will be questions raised about Mr Gulen,” Kerry told reporters.

And obviously we would invite the government of Turkey, as we always do, to present us with any legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny. And the United States will accept that and look at it and make judgments about it appropriately.

Gulen is understood to maintain significant support among some members of the military and mid-level bureaucrats. His movement called Hizmet includes think tanks, schools and various media enterprises. Gulen and Erdogan only became estranged in recent years.

A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations, said Turkey was preparing a formal extradition request with detailed information about Gulen’s involvement in illegal activities.

He said the coup attempt was seen as “one more thing to add to an already extensive list”.

In a statement, Gulen said he condemned, “in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey” and sharply rejected any responsibility or knowledge of who might be involved.

Fethullah Gulen File photo of Fethullah Gulen. Source: Selahattin Sevi/AP/Press Association Images

At a news briefing yesterday in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, the cleric noted that he has been away from Turkey for more than 15 years and would not have returned if the coup had succeeded. He cited greater freedoms in the United States as a reason.

“In brief, I don’t even know who my followers are,” the frail-looking cleric said through an interpreter.

You can think about many motivations of people who staged this coup.

The coup failed after appearing not to have been backed by the most senior ranks of the military. Turkey’s main opposition parties, too, condemned the attempted overthrow of the government.

Prime Minister Benali Yildirim said 161 people were killed and 1,440 wounded in the overnight violence. He said 2,839 plotters were detained.

Kerry said the U.S. had no indication beforehand of the coup attempt, which began as he and Russia’s foreign minister were in a Russian government villa in Moscow, locked in negotiations over Syria.

“If you’re planning a coup, you don’t exactly advertise to your partners in NATO,” Kerry said.

So it surprised everyone. It does not appear to be a very brilliantly planned or executed event.

With AFP

Read: Irish citizens in Turkey told to ‘exercise high degree of caution’ after coup attempt

Read: Turkey coup: 265 killed in clashes, almost 3,000 soldiers detained

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