The military coup attempted in Turkey on 15 July 2016 fizzled out quickly. But President Tayyip Erdogan has accused a political rival, exiled Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, and his followers of engineering the coup without substantiation, and is using it as a pretext to purge the government, judiciary and military. This reaction could lead to sustained domestic instability that would strain Turkey's international relations, exacerbate its democratic deficit and damage its social fabric.

The failed military coup in Turkey on 15 July 2016 has intensified concerns about growing political instability in the country. Although the identity of the coup plotters remains unclear, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's subsequent crackdown on a wide range of his perceived opponents – including the detention of nearly one-third of the high command of the Turkish Armed Forces – could portend a period of sustained turmoil that would seriously strain Turkey's international relations, exacerbate its already widening democratic deficit and inflict lasting damage on its social fabric.

The attempted putsch

Although many details remain unclear, the coup attempt appears to have been launched shortly after 10pm local time on 15 July, when an air traffic control operator at Akinci air force base northwest of Ankara contacted his counterpart at the city's commercial Esenboga International Airport to inform him that two locally-based warplanes were about to take off and that Esenboga would not be able to coordinate flight paths with them. A few minutes later, two F-16 fighters from the Akinci-based 141 Squadron took off and made several very low passes over Ankara. Shortly afterwards, another pair of F-16s took off from Akinci. Air traffic control at Esenboga picked up call signs for four KC-135R Stratotankers from the Turkish 10th Main Tanker Base at Incirlik air base in southeast Turkey, which is the main hub for the American-led air campaign against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL). The KC-135Rs appear to have been used to refuel the F-16s flying over Ankara.

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