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At Least 194 Killed In Turkey After Attempted Coup Unravels In Turkey

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer, in today for Scott Simon. It has been a tumultuous week across the globe, culminating in an attempted military coup last night in Turkey. For several hours last night, it was unclear who was in control of the country of 75 million people. Then President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared in Istanbul and signaled that he had retained his grip on power. But there are still pockets of conflict between rival factions of the military. At least 160 people have died - mostly soldiers, but also some civilians who protested against the coup.

Dion Nissenbaum is with The Wall Street Journal. He's in Istanbul. Good morning.

DION NISSENBAUM: Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: So what is the latest that you know? What does the - does the government appear to be in control?

NISSENBAUM: The government does appear to be in control. It seems that the coup has been put down. There are still pockets of resistance, as you said, but you've got a helicopter of Turkish officers that flew to Greece seeking political sanctuary this morning. You've got the head of the military who is freed from the coup plotters and stood side by side with the prime minister this morning in announcing that they've retaken control. And it seems like the momentum is certainly in their direction, and the military - the coup - has been put down.

WERTHEIMER: Where's the president?

NISSENBAUM: That's a good question. Last night, he was in Istanbul, not Ankara, which people took as a sign that perhaps the capital wasn't as safe as it could be. We don't know exactly if he's gone back to the Ankara yet. He has not appeared yet this morning. It's likely he's still in Istanbul while they still try and ensure that Ankara is safe.

WERTHEIMER: It was a chaotic night, both in Istanbul and in Ankara. Could you take us through how things developed?

NISSENBAUM: It was remarkable - a remarkable series of events. You know, you had things begin in the evening with all the coup plotters' soldiers closing off the two main bridges connecting the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. Tanks setting up shop and closing down the airport that was the site of the major Islamic State attack just a few weeks ago. There were air strikes in Ankara. Police were fighting military.

The president was on vacation in the south of the country and appeared via FaceTime on CNN Turk to call people into the streets. And they they heeded his call and flooded the streets and took over tanks and greeted him by the thousands when he flew into the airport to reassert power. There were just compelling images all night of battles taking place and competing forces battling for control - scenes I've never seen before.

WERTHEIMER: In the end - very quickly - do you think the Turkish people were against the coup?

NISSENBAUM: I think this, in fact, was the Turkish people defending a democratically elected government. The president himself is a divisive figure here. He's wildly unpopular. And I think it's important to recognize that this was Turkish people coming out as much to protect Turkish democracy and oppose a coup as it was to defend the president himself.

WERTHEIMER: Dion, thank you very much.

NISSENBAUM: Thank you, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Dion Nissenbaum of The Wall Street Journal spoke to us via Skype. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.