Published 4:16 pm, Saturday, July 15, 2017
Photo: Lefteris Pitarakis, Associated Press
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president addressed tens of thousands of people Saturday at a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the country’s crushed military coup, vowing to “rip the heads off” of terror groups and of the coup-plotters who tried to end his more than a decade-long rule.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined the large, flag-waving crowd who took part in a national unity march in Istanbul, converging at the July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge to remember 250 people who died on July 15, 2016, trying to resist the coup. Erdogan inaugurated a monument featuring the names of the victims near the foot of the bridge.
“Exactly a year ago today, around this hour, a treacherous attempt took place,” Erdogan said.
“The July 15 coup attempt is not the first attack against our country, and it won’t be the last,” he said, referring to a series of terror attacks that also hit the country. “For that reason, we’ll first cut the heads off of these traitors.”
The bridge was the scene of clashes between civilians and soldiers in tanks. At least 30 people died there and more than 2,000 were injured across Turkey in the struggle. Thirty-five coup plotters were also killed.
Turkish soldiers attempted to overthrow the government using tanks, warplanes and helicopters a year ago. The coup plotters declared their seizure of power on the state broadcaster, bombed the country’s parliament and other key locations, and raided an Aegean resort where Erdogan had been on vacation. But Erdogan had already left and the coup attempt was put down by civilians and security forces.
Turkey blames U.S. cleric Fethullah Gulen for orchestrating the coup and infiltrating state institutions. Gulen denies the allegations.
In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Turkey declared a state of emergency, which has allowed the government to rule by decree and to dismiss tens of thousands of people from their jobs.
Zeynep Bilginsoy and Suzan Fraser are Associated Press writers.