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Protesters Take To Streets Of Istanbul Amid Apparent Military Coup

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A vital U.S. ally is in chaos tonight in the midst of an attempted coup. Turkey sits at the edge of Asia and Europe. It is a key NATO ally to the United States in the fight against ISIS. It's also a major tourist destination for people from around the world, and Turkey is home to 75 million people.

Tonight civilians and soldiers are facing off in the streets of Istanbul and other cities. There are competing claims of who is running the country, the president or the military. The military has taken over a television network and announced that it is placing the country under curfew and martial law. Our next guest, freelance journalist Noah Blaser, is in Istanbul, and he joins us via Skype. Welcome.

NOAH BLASER: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Tell us what you've been seeing tonight.

BLASER: Just out on the streets, there's been complete chaos in this city. In a space of about three hours, life has gone from normal to governed by checkpoints, confusion over how long this coup may last. People are lining up at some stores to buy water and food. And on the streets there are, you know, these clashes between the government and, you know, police and soldiers trying to overthrow the government.

I was just in the square, Taksim Square, which is very center - in the center of Istanbul. And there were protesters. There were police. There were soldiers firing in the air, and it was a scene of incredible chaos.

SHAPIRO: Now, the military has declared a curfew and martial law while the government is urging people into the streets to protest. Do people in the streets all seem to be of one mind, or are there two sides converging?

BLASER: Well, in fact all four major parties of Parliament have called for their supporters to go on the streets and to oppose the military coup. Turkey is a country that has witnessed three previous military coups, hard military coups. And they have a very - they have a bad connotation in Turkey. And that would be at least really an understatement I think.

So I think most people are opposed to this coup currently. And there are people - I can see outside of my window there's a group of hundreds of people facing off against a military checkpoint here. They're shouting slogans, but they don't seem to be slogans just in support of the government but simply against the notion of a military coup.

SHAPIRO: So far we've really primarily heard reports from Istanbul and the capital, Ankara. Is there any indication of what is happening in other cities around the country?

BLASER: It's more of the same. Turkish media outlets have been showing similar scenes from around the country. The most intense action has been happening in the country's capital, where there are parts that helicopters have fired from the air on protesters, and there have been explosions reported at the state broadcaster.

One thing that we do know about the rest of the Turkey is that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was vacationing in Southern Turkey when this coup attempt happened. He is not in the hands of those who attempted the coup, and so his absence from Ankara has certainly benefited him and been of great detriment to the people attempting this coup.

SHAPIRO: That's journalist Noah Blaser speaking with us from Istanbul, covering this attempted coup in Turkey as we wait to find out whether the coup has been successful or not. We will continue bringing you details throughout the night. Noah Blaser, thank you very much.

BLASER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.