Foreign Office warning as Turkey coup bid leaves at least 161 dead

Turkish people wave the national flags on a car in Istanbul, Turkey.
Turkish people wave the national flags on a car in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Foreign Office has “strongly” advised Britons in Turkey to stay indoors following “a state of martial law” being put into effect in the country as reports emerged of at least 161 deaths in an attempted coup.

Updated travel advice for Turkey said that there were “widespread reports of gunfire and explosions in Ankara and Istanbul” as well as reports of shooting near the popular tourist resort of Marmaris.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “very concerned” by the events unfolding in Turkey.

He said: “Our Embassy is monitoring the situation closely. Brits should follow FCO website for advice.”

He urged calm and the avoidance of further bloodshed as the Turkish prime minister, Binali Yildirim, said the death toll had risen to 161, with 1,440 people injured, while 2,839 military personnel have been detained.

In Istanbul, gunfire was heard and military vehicles blocked key bridges and access to the airport while fighter jets flew over the capital Ankara.

The updated Foreign Office advice said: “Large-scale military action is ongoing in Turkey, and a state of martial law is in effect.

“There are widespread reports of gunfire and explosions in Ankara and Istanbul, and the military has been deployed to the streets.

“Some flights to airports in Turkey are being diverted or cancelled, and the bridges across the Bosphorus in Istanbul have been closed.

“The road between Marmaris and Icmeler is closed, with reports of gunfire between the resorts of Marmaris and Icmeler.

“We strongly advise you to stay indoors, avoid public places, in particular demonstrations, and remain vigilant.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed that the government was “in charge” and that the attempted coup would not succeed.

Earlier, military figures announced they had “fully seized control” of the country - a member of Nato and an applicant for EU membership - in a bid to restore democracy and the rule of law.

Explosions were reported at the Turkish parliament in Ankara and it was reported that 17 police officers had been killed in a helicopter attack on police special forces headquarters on the outskirts of the capital.

The Turkish news agency Dogan said soldiers had opened fired on people trying to cross the Bosphorus Bridge protesting against the attempted coup, and that some had been wounded.

Witness Alev Scott, a British-Turkish writer, heard gunfire in Istanbul’s Taksim Square and low-flying jets.

She said: “I was watching things from my terrace, watching the military vehicles on the Bosphorus Bridge and then these sonic booms started.

“It was actually quite scary so I went down into my flat just keeping away from the windows which had all blown open.”

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry issued a statement urging “calm and restraint” from everyone in Turkey in the coming days.

She said: “There is no excuse on any side for violence or abuse of human rights, and we would urge all parties to engage with the international community to preserve peace and democracy, and resolve this situation.

“In particular, we urge all those in a position of authority to reassure Britons and other foreign nationals currently visiting Turkey that they are safe, and will be allowed to return home without impediment at the earliest opportunity.”

Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord (Menzies) Campbell told the Press Association: “It should come as little surprise that the army which sees itself as the proud guardian of the secular tradition in Turkey, has responded to President Erdogan in this way.

“His increasing steps to create a greater religious element in governance and his restrictions on civil rights have provoked severe discontent.

“Instability in Turkey has profound consequences for its relationship with the EU and the issues of immigrants and for Nato of which Turkey is a long-standing and military and politically significant member.”

The Association of British Insurers said: “In light of the coup in Turkey, anyone booked to travel to the country should contact their tour operator, travel agent, or airline for advice. If alternative arrangements are made you should be able to transfer your travel insurance to the new destination.

“You should regularly check Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice. Anyone in Turkey should speak to their tour operator or airline for advice.”

The UK’s largest travel association ABTA said it was liasing closely with the Foreign Office and travel providers and advised holidaymakers to follow Foreign Office advice.

A spokeswoman said: “Until the exact details of the situation become clearer, ABTA recommends that members of the public read and follow the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advice and any advice or instructions issued by their travel provider or airline.”

British Airways has cancelled all flights to and from the country and the Foreign Office is advising people to avoid public places and areas of conflict.

A British Airways spokeswoman said: “In light of the events unfolding in Turkey, all flights to and from the country have been cancelled today (July 16).

“We are keeping flights to Turkey under review.

“The safety and security of our customers and colleagues remains our top priority at all times. For the latest flight details please refer to ba.com.”

Customers affected by the cancellations are being offered to rebook or a refund, while people currently booked for Sunday or Monday can rebook at no cost, subject to availability, the airline said.

An easyJet spokeswoman said the airline did not expect any changes to its schedule.

“EasyJet flies from the UK to Antalya, Bodrum, Dalaman and Ismir in Turkey and has 24 flights to and from Turkey scheduled on July 16.

“We are liaising with the Turkish and British authorities. The safety and security of our passengers and crew is the airline’s highest priority.

“Current advice from the British authorities is to continue our flying programme. This will be kept under continuous review,” she said.

The Foreign Office advises people due to travel to or from Turkey over the next few days to closely monitor travel advice and check with airlines or tour operators before travelling.