Istanbul police on alert over ‘rogue helicopters,’ Turkey sends troops & F-16s to patrol
Turkish police have urgently ramped up their presence in Istanbul, with special forces and military hardware deployed to the streets and orders to down aircraft without warning, following unconfirmed reports of rebel helicopters approaching the city. Meanwhile, F-16 fighter jets have been sent to patrol Turkish airspace.
A state of emergency has been imposed in Istanbul and 1,800 additional special police forces have been deployed, the state Anadolu Agency reported.
Armored vehicles have also been deployed to key locations in Istanbul, Sputnik news agency reported earlier.
Unconfirmed media reports claimed that unidentified helicopters have been spotted over the city, two days after rebel aircraft were used in a military coup attempt to attack police and government buildings in Ankara.
UPDATE: Turkish media report 3 helicopters were spotted over Istanbul at 22:30 local time (2.5 hours ago)https://t.co/8LeF1Plquy— Conflict News (@Conflicts) July 17, 2016
Reports of up to five helicopters approaching the European part of Istanbul from the sea were posted by local media, including Haber Turk newspaper, but have not been substantiated.
Other media reports cited by Sputnik said that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plane has taken off from Istanbul and was headed toward Ankara.
Earlier on Sunday, Erdogan ordered the deployment of at least a dozen F-16 fighter jets to monitor Turkish airspace, Al Jazeera Turk reported.
F-16s harassed Erdogan plane during coup attempt, plotters tried to seize him – Reuters https://t.co/4rDojquve3— RT (@RT_com) July 17, 2016
The alert comes on the heels of another report by CNN Turk, which said that at least 42 military helicopters have gone missing during the coup turmoil. The report implied there might be another attempt to seize power by the coup plotters.
The allegations contradict the Turkish government’s official line saying they have already squashed the coup attempt. The violent events that took place overnight into Saturday were followed by mass purges in the military and judiciary, with more than 6,000 people arrested, including generals, judges and prosecutors.
READ MORE: Turkish coup ‘no carte blanche’ for purges, French FM says, as number of arrests reaches 6,000
The mass arrests have prompted a worried response from European leaders, who called on Ankara to uphold democracy and the rule of law.
Erdogan, meanwhile, openly said he views the coup attempt as a “gift from God,” enabling the government to “cleanse the army” once and for all.
At least 265 people were killed and over 1,440 injured in the chaotic events of late Friday and early Saturday as rebelling military fired on civilians and attacked police stations, while anti-coup protesters tried to block tanks and troops with their own bodies and vehicles.
Several aircraft were filmed being used by the coup plotters, including a helicopter raining down fire on protesters and police, as well as bombing the parliament building. Another aircraft, reportedly an F-16, attempted to bomb Erdogan’s presidential palace, with two bombs landing outside the complex.