From Humeyra Pamuk and Orhan Coskun for Reuters:
Reuters) – At the height of the attempt to overthrow Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, the rebel pilots of two F-16 fighter jets had Erdogan’s plane in their sights. And yet he was able to fly on.
The Turkish leader was returning to Istanbul from a holiday near the coastal resort of Marmaris after a faction in the military launched the coup attempt on Friday night, sealing off a bridge across the Bosphorus, trying to capture Istanbul’s main airport and sending tanks to parliament in Ankara.
“At least two F-16s harassed Erdogan’s plane while it was in the air and en route to Istanbul. They locked their radars on his plane and on two other F-16s protecting him,” a former military officer with knowledge of the events told Reuters.
“Why they didn’t fire is a mystery,” he said……
A senior Turkish official confirmed to Reuters that Erdogan’s business jet had been harassed while flying from the airport that serves Marmaris by two F-16s commandeered by the coup plotters but that he had managed to reach Istanbul safely.
A second senior official also said the presidential jet had been “in trouble in the air” but gave no details.
Erdogan said as the coup unfolded that the plotters had tried to attack him in the resort town of Marmaris and had bombed places he had been at shortly after he left. He “evaded death by minutes”, the second official said.
Around 25 soldiers in helicopters descended on a hotel in Marmaris on ropes, shooting, just after Erdogan had left in an apparent attempt to seize him, broadcaster CNN Turk said…..
Three senior officials in Ankara said Akin Ozturk, head of the air force until 2015 and a member of High Military Council (YAS), the top body overseeing the armed forces, was one of the masterminds of the plot. He was among thousands of soldiers detained, pictured on Sunday in handcuffs wearing a striped polo shirt at Ankara police headquarters.
Ozturk was due to be retired this August at a meeting of the YAS, which convenes twice a year. According to his biography, still on the military’s website, he was born in 1952.
The second mastermind was thought to be Muharrem Kose, a former legal adviser to the chief of military staff, the same three Ankara officials said. They described Kose as a follower of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric whose network Erdogan has blamed for carrying out the coup attempt.
Kose was removed from his post in March for misconduct but had not been discharged from the armed forces, one of the officials said. His whereabouts are currently unknown.
Edrogan seems to have everything all wrapped up nicely, including a plotter who is a supposed follower of Fethulla Gulen and serves as a ready-made blunt instrument with which to hammer the United States. The number of people Erdogan has arrested is staggering – 6000, according to the BBC.