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What in the World Happened in Turkey? The Coup Attempt, Explained

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The aftermath of the failed coup attempt in Turkey. (eser.karadag/Flickr)


Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is blaming a military coup attempt on a guy in Pennsylvania.

Wait, what? There was a coup attempt in Turkey? And he's blaming someone in the US?

Hold up, what went down?

Friday night was a long, dramatic night in Turkey.

Right away, with lots of confusion, things started happening as people were out celebrating a long week on Friday.

A group from the military shut down major bridges--connecting Europe and Asia-- in Istanbul. They also closed Istanbul's international airport.

Over in the country's capital of Ankara, they took control of the streets with tanks and military jet flyovers in a show of force against the government.

Seeing it as an attempt to push him from power, President Erdogan, who was away on a trip, addressed the country via Facetime on TV. Yes, FaceTime.

He disputed the actions of these military members and urged people to take to the streets.

Thousands then went outside in several cities across Turkey. It was like a war over a few hours, all during the dark of the night. And a massive uprising--in support of the government.

Erdogan supporters celebrating the failure of the coup #erdogan #istanbul #coupdetat #turkey

A video posted by Elif Savas (@elifsavasf) on

Supporters of the Erdogan government, or just supporters of democracy, risked their lives taking to the streets. They faced tanks, gunfire, sonic booms, fighter jet flyovers. Both police and civilians arrested soldiers involved.

Those involved in the coup bombed the parliamentary building in Turkey's capital Ankara. Parliamentarians hunkered down and stayed in the building. 12 were killed.

It eventually settled down by dawn, with the government back in power, and many arrests of military members.

Plus more than 260 people died--most of them civilians--and a little over 100 coup-plotters killed.

How important is this, really?

Turkey is a major power in the world today, quite literally resting between Europe and Asia in the Middle East region.

Turkey has its problems. President Erdogan has become increasingly authoritarian in a parliamentary republic system, trying to gain more power politically. He has many rivals in political parties and dissident civilians.

However, Turkey is incredibly important. It is one of the most stable countries in the Middle East and many Western countries depend on that. Including the US.

Turkey is a member of NATO, an organization of international countries believing in security and diplomatic relations. The US and Germany, among others, are members.

Not only that, the US and its coalition against the Islamic State launches operations from an air base in Turkey. It's closer and faster to fly from Turkey than from Italy or from a military ship in the Mediterranean.

So there's no question that security is a priority in the country and beyond. There was just an attack at the Ataturk international airport in Istanbul this month.

They've suffered many terror attacks over the last year or so.

While it is relatively safe, Turkey knows security is a priority with Syria's five-year war right next door and an overwhelming amount of refugees in the country.

Where's the US in all of this?

Oh boy.

So, there is an Islamic cleric named Fethullah Gulen living in self-exile in Pennsylvania. And President Erdogan blamed him for orchestrating the coup attempt on Friday.

This whole issue at one point got a little dangerous for the US. Government workers couldn't go in or out of the Incirlik base, as it was closed. They were suggested to not go to any airport in Turkey.

But soon after, things returned to normal at the Incirlik air base. Operations against ISIS from the base continued.

Yet, the diplomatic issues over Gulen charged on. He spoke in interviews from Pennsylvania and said he did not run the coup attempt. He also said he was against the attacks. It still looks like Turkey may try to extradite him.

Stay tuned.

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What in the World Happened in Turkey? The Coup Attempt, Explained

Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a freelance international news reporter, having contributed to The Atlantic online and Mic. He's worked at CNNMoney, the New York Daily News, and Voice of America. Patrick loves tweeting, reading, and grabbing coffee in either New York or Washington D.C. Tweet anything on politics or world conflict to him! Follow: @patrickdehahn.

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