LISTEN: ‘There were gunshots and people started running’ SA man describes panic in Turkey

A South African trapped inside his hotel room in Turkey has described to TimesLive the panic in the streets of Turkey as a military coup happened right in front of his eyes.
Speaking from his hotel room, with gunshots raging in the background, Thabo Kgomommu says he was out at dinner with a Unesco delegation when locals told them to return to their hotel.

People stand on a Turkish army tank in Ankara, Turkey July 16, 2016.  Picture: TUMAY BERKIN / REUTERS
People stand on a Turkish army tank in Ankara, Turkey July 16, 2016.

“The streets were quiet and suddenly there were police and gunshots and planes flying on top of us. It was very scary.”

Kgomommu, who says he is there as part of Unesco meetings taking place in Istanbul, explained how he fled to his hotel room.

“The roads was barricaded and there were police everywhere. But now it’s empty. We’re in the hotel by ourselves and there are no police or security. We haven’t heard anything from anyone. I just hope this is sorted out peacefully. It’s so dark that you can see the bullets flying around,” he said.

Kgomommu says he is in Turkey with six other South Africans.

Elements of the Turkish military announced they had seized control of the country in a military coup on Saturday, sparking bloody clashes in Istanbul and Ankara.

An AFP photographer saw troops open fire on people gathered near one of the Bosphorus bridges in Istanbul and state-run news agency Anadolu reported that the parliament in Ankara has been bombed.

@DannyGoulkan posted this video, tweeting: “We are helplessly listening to the gunfire from underneath our beds and hotel balcony”

Earlier in the night, a shaken President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared on television from an unknown location insisting he was still in power and vowing the putschists would pay a “very heavy price”.

“I certainly believe that coup plotters will not succeed,” he said, speaking on a mobile phone via FaceTime.

There was global alarm at the rapidly developing situation, as a presidential source said an F-16 fighter jet had shot down a helicopter hijacked by coup plotters.

State broadcaster TRT said the military had declared martial law and a curfew, in a statement signed by a group calling itself the “Council for Peace in the Homeland”.

“The power in the country has been seized in its entirety,” the statement said.

It said the coup had been launched “to ensure and restore constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms and let the supremacy of the law in the country prevail, to restore order which was disrupted”.

It was not yet clear whether the attempted takeover had been backed with the widespread support of the military, or just a few rogue elements within it.

– additional reporting by AFP


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