Plotters planned to bring 5,000 troops to Ankara from southeast

Plotters planned to bring 5,000 troops to Ankara from southeast

As the probe into the failed coup attempt on July 15 begins to deepen, more details about its planning have begun to surface. 

According to ranking official sources in Ankara who did not want to be named, the plan included carrying some 5,000 gendarmerie commandos to the capital in order to take control of key state facilities in the attempt to overthrow the government. The plan had three phases, as confirmed by sources. The first phase was to fly C-130 transport planes from military airports in Malatya, Kayseri and Ankara to the southeastern town of Şırnak, which borders both Syria and Iraq. It is a region where one of the most intensified anti-terror fights against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is being carried out, and where gendarmerie commandos play an important role.

The second phase was to form an air bridge between Şırnak and Ankara’s Eitmesgut base to transport the commandos on fake orders, as the orders were from the Gendarmerie General Command in Ankara, whose chief, Gen. Galip Mendi, was to be seized by the coup plotters. 

The third phase was to transport the commandos to key positions in Ankara, like the parliament building, the presidential compound, the prime minister’s office and the headquarters of the chief of general staff, the Interior Ministry, the National Intelligence agency (MIT) and the police special forces, as well as the Turkish satellite ground station, which is a key node in the country’s telecommunications network.

As soon as the intelligence about the movement reached Ankara earlier on July 15, the governors and the police chiefs of all cities involved, namely Kayseri, Malatya and Şırnak, were alerted by security units. By that time some of the C-130s had already landed at the Şırnak airport. In order to prevent them from taking off, the Şırnak Governor’s Office parked fire engines and other vehicles on the tarmac; so did the officers in Kayseri and Malatya (from where some transport planes had been allegedly prepared to carry ammunition for the plotters as well). 

The sources said the move to stop the transport was a key element in foiling the coup attempt. That was assumed to be one of the reasons why the court arrested Gen. Adem Huduti, the commander of the 2nd Army based in Malatya, on accusations of taking part in the plot. Turkey’s 2nd Army is responsible for the security of the sensitive borders with Syria and Iraq and carries the prime responsibility in the fight against the PKK and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The early warning radar of the NATO-operated U.S. Defense Shield system is also in Malatya, near its Erhaç military airport.

Sources said a second transport of troops intended to take President Tayyip Erdoğan hostage at the hotel where he was having a family holiday near the Aegean resort of Marmaris was similarly foiled by the police force in the western town of Isparta.

According to the same official sources, the plotters planned to transport commandos from the mountain commando base in Eğirdir, Isparta to Marmaris. But when the police took measures to halt air transportation, the plotters hired 40 busses to transport the commandos. Upon learning that the police took all 40 drivers into temporary custody, which forced the junta to shift to their contingency plan to send special forces commandos loyal to them from Çiğli Air Base near the Aegean city of İzmir via three transport helicopters, which they did. They attacked the hotel but were not able to disembark due to counter fire opened by the president’s guards. The president had left the hotel some half an hour before, taking the time in between to travel toward Istanbul, after 1st Army Commander Gen. Ümit Dündar had assured the president he would take Atatürk Airport from the control of the junta, which he did, enabling Erdoğan to land.

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım repeated on July 17 that the junta was under the manipulation of the “parallel terrorist gang,” a term the government uses for the followers of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamist ideologue living in the U.S. who was a former ally of Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) but now an arch enemy.

The Turkish government has been asking for Gülen’s extradition to Turkey on terrorism charges and the U.S. has been asking for solid evidence about his activities involving terror. The new development on that front was a statement by John Bass, the American ambassador to Ankara, who said in a statement that they were ready to discuss the situation with the Turkish government.