Ankara seeks to re-emerge from rubble of failed coup

ANKARA: The 10-storey police headquarters in Ankara, meant to be a symbol of might and order, is now a wreck, gutted by a successive air raids during the night of Turkey’s failed coup.


“I do not know how long the rebuilding will take. But we have started,” a senior Turkish police official told AFP at the scene, surveying the extent of the damage.

The coup plotters, who sought to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power overnight Friday, targeted above all key institutions in the capital including this police headquarters, the parliament and the presidency itself.

The damage from these aerial attacks has been considerable to buildings that Turks consider sometimes ominous symbols of the state’s power.

The coup plotters seized F-16 fighter jets and attack helicopters from air bases and then flew them above the capital, terrifying residents.

The facade of the police headquarters is now a distorted wreck while the ground in front is covered in broken glass which scrunches like icy snow underfoot.

Even the big letters of its official name have been hit. Some have fallen off while others hang precipitously, threatening to follow.

The air is still thick with dust from the rubble, making breathing uncomfortable.

The ground floor department used to handle thousands of people a day, handing out passports where computers and desks now sit forlornly in the ruins.

Upstairs the scene is even worse with office walls blown out. Pictures of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk stare down from remaining walls as if the country’s greatest hero was appalled by the damage.

“We were under attack from helicopters and F-16s. Especially after midnight, the intensity increased,” said the police official, who asked not to be identified.

“They would take a break, but then come back and with even more intensity.”

In Golbasi, outside Ankara, 42 people were killed in two strikes by the rebel plotters on a special forces headquarters, in what appears to have been the deadliest single incident of the coup night.

One air attack hit the guard house where a security scanner still stands uselessly in the rubble.

Another struck the roof of the main building, blowing out the exterior walls and exposing the dormitory with the beds pillows and mattresses still in place as they were when the deadly strike hit.

Police stand guard outside the wrecked shell of the building as weeping relatives of victims try to come to terms with the devastation.

A different kind of trauma was experienced at the headquarters of state broadcaster TRT, stormed by the coup plotters who forced a news anchor to read a message declaring they had taken control.

“The staff had their hands tied behind their backs and were forced to the ground,” said deputy head of news Kudret Dogandemir. “While at the same time F-16s flew low overhead.”

Within days, normal routine has resumed in the same studio where the now infamous coup statement was read, with the newscaster, during a visit by AFP, presenting a feature on how the coup was defeated.

But perhaps the most symbolic target of all was Turkey’s parliament, where deputies gathered after the coup attempt began to send a message through the media that the putsch would be defeated.

Irfan Neziroglu, the general secretary of the parliament, said he had immediately rushed to the parliament building with other deputies when he heard the news of the coup.

“During this time the F-16s were flying very low. It was an unbelievable panic.”

He said parliament was bombed three times by F-16s seized by the coup plotters and also hit by 10 noise bombs.

In what was once a pleasant atrium, cacti and ornamental ponds now lie in a bed of shards of glass. Walls have collapsed and plaster blown out.

Most of the windows in the parliament’s vast imposing facade have been shattered and its massive golden doors forced off their hinges.

Yet two soldiers still maintain a ceremonial guard, standing stock-still in glass sentry boxes as if frozen in time.

“If one bomb had deviated by a few centimetres then all of us here in parliament would not be here today,” said Neziroglu.

“The aim was to kill.”



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