Turkey Cuts Power to Incirlik Air Base, Suspends Military Flights

Senior Airman German Rubio-Arroyo, 39th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment journeyman, refuels a C-17 Globemaster cargo aircraft during a wing exercise June 27, 2014, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Nicole Sikorski/Air Force
Senior Airman German Rubio-Arroyo, 39th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment journeyman, refuels a C-17 Globemaster cargo aircraft during a wing exercise June 27, 2014, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Nicole Sikorski/Air Force

Power to the huge U.S. airbase at Incirlik in southeastern Turkey was cut off Saturday and flight operations against ISIS were shut down in the aftermath of the failed military coup.

The U.S. military was still seeking a full accounting of all personnel and dependents in Turkey, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.

"All indications at this time are that everyone is safe and secure," he said. "We will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety and security of our service members, our civilians, their families and our facilities."

Cook said the Turkish government "has closed its airspace to military aircraft and, as a result, air operations at Incirlik Air Base have been halted at this time."

There was no indication when flights against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, would resume.

Cook said U.S. Central Command was making adjustments with aircraft operating out of other regional bases "to minimize any effects on the campaign."

In addition, commercial power to the base where about 2,000 mostly Air Force personnel are stationed was cut off but the base was able to function on internal power, he said.

The statement contrasted with the initial reports from defense officials Friday night as the coup was underway. At the time they said Incirlik was not affected and flight operations were continuing.

U.S. European Command, which has responsibility for Turkey, evacuated about 600 of the estimated 700 military families who resided at Incirlik following the terror attacks on the Brussels airport and Metro in March. However, a defense official told Military.com Friday night that about 100 dependents were still in Turkey.

NATO ally Turkey was rocked Friday by clashes between the coup militants and forces loyal to the government of President Recep Tayyin Erdogan that left at least 265 dead and 1,440 wounded, according to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. At a news conference Saturday in Ankara, the capital, Yildirim called the failed coup "a stain on the history of democracy."

The coup appeared to be succeeding until Erdogan made a dramatic landing Friday night at the Istanbul airport to rally supporters.

In statements Saturday, Erdogan blamed the coup attempt on followers of Muslim cleric Feethullah Gulen, a former ally now living in exile in Pennsylvania. Referring to Gulen, Erdogan said "I have a message for Pennsylvania: You have engaged in enough treason against this nation. If you dare, come back to your country."

A statement released on the website of his group, the Alliance for Shared Values, quoted Gulen as saying that he condemned the coup attempt and supported democracy.

"As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt," Gulen said. "I categorically deny such accusations."

President Barack Obama was kept advised of the Turkey situation by his national security and foreign policy teams but he had not as yet called Erdogan, the White House said in a statement at midday Saturday.

In the meetings, "the President reiterated the United States' unwavering support for the democratically-elected, civilian government of Turkey," the statement said.

"While we have no indications as of yet that Americans were killed or injured in the violence, the President and his team lamented the loss of life and registered the vital need for all parties in Turkey to act within the rule of law and to avoid actions that would lead to further violence or instability," the statement said.

--Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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