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Coup attempt in Turkey: What we know so far

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told thousands of flag-waving supporters in Istanbul Saturday that he was in charge, just hours after a faction of Turkey's military said armed forces had "fully taken control" of the country.

At least 161 dead, 1,400 wounded and 2,800 in custody

A soldier beaten by a mob is protected by plain-clothes policemen after troops involved in an attemtped coup surrendered on the Bosporus Bridge in Istanbul. (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told thousands of flag-waving supporters in Istanbul Saturday that he was in charge, just hours after a faction of Turkey's military said armed forces had "fully taken control" of the country.

Erdogan, whose whereabouts were not being disclosed by his office, had returned on a flight to Istanbul, with large crowds greeting him at the airport. 

Turkey's military says it has seized control, but the government insists coup won't succeed 0:52

Erdogan was quick to blame the movement of the U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. They have denied any involvement in the coup attempt.

Erdogan has launched a broad campaign against Gulen's movement in Turkey and abroad. Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania's Poconos, has been charged criminally with plotting to overthrow the government, and was placed on trial in absentia in Turkey earlier this year.

The military had said it seized control to protect the democratic order and maintain human rights. 

Here are the answers to some questions emerging in the crisis. 

What's happening on the ground?

At least 161 people have been killed and more than 1,400 have been wounded in the attempted coup, Turkish Prime Minister Benali Yildirim says. The death toll is lower than one of 194 provided earlier by the military

People react near a military vehicle during an attempted coup in Ankara, Turkey, early on July 16. (Tumay Berkin/Reuters)

More than 2,800 people have been detained across Turkey as the government cracks down on the attempted coup, The Associated Press reports.

State-run news agency Anadolu says military chief of staff Gen. Hulusi Akar has been rescued in an operation launched at an air base in the outskirts of Ankara and taken to a safe location.

Anadolu also reports that soldiers who took over the Chief of General Staff Headquarters have requested negotiations to surrender. According to a Turkish official at the presidency, that is the last base the coup supporters hold.

How significant is this?

If successful, the overthrow of Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, would amount to one of the biggest shifts in power in the region in years.

Even an unsuccessful coup could serve to destabilize one of the most important allies of the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.

Turkey is a NATO member with the second biggest military in the Western alliance. The country is hugely important in no small part because of its location, bordering eight countries, including Iraq, Iran and Syria. 

Have there been coup attempts in Turkey before?

Yes. The Turkish military has "long seen itself as the guardian of Turkish democracy," according to Al-Jazeera, and staged outright coups in 1960, 1971 and in 1980. It also launched a "postmodern coup" in 1997, when military generals worked behind the scenes to pressure former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan out of power. 

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      What's the political situation in Turkey?

      There has been a political tug of war within Turkey, the CBC's Nahlah Ayed recently reported, driven by division over an increasingly controlling president, and the longstanding battle with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has carried out several deadly attacks. In addition, Turkey is host to two million Syrian refugees and the launch pad for the biggest influx of migrants to Europe since the Second World War.

      Turkey is a principal backer of opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country's civil war. Celebratory gunfire erupted in Syria's capital Damascus as word of the coup attempt got out.

      Erdogan was elected president in 2014 with plans to alter the constitution to give the previously ceremonial presidency far greater executive powers. Prior to that, he had been prime minister since 2003.

      Erdogan's AK Party has long had a strained relationship with the military and nationalists in a state that was founded on secularist principles after the First World War.  

      The size of the Turkish military is reportedly in the 300,000 to 400,000 range. It was not immediately clear how extensively the coup had penetrated the ranks of the military.

      With files from Reuters and The Associated Press

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