Turkey | KNKX

Turkey

Turkish authorities have launched a massive detention operation, arresting more than 1,000 people nationwide on Wednesday. The Turkish government says the arrests are aimed at supporters of the U.S-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for last year's failed coup attempt.

Turkish voters will decide Sunday whether to replace the Turkish Republic's parliamentary form of government with a strong presidency. It's a vote that could alter — or, opponents say, endanger — the democratic traditions of this key U.S. ally. Turkey is a NATO member helping fight ISIS.

If the referendum passes, it will increase the power of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Polls released late in the campaign showed a narrow lead for "yes," with a large number still declaring themselves undecided. Erdogan is predicting at least a 55 percent margin for "yes."

During his first trip to Turkey as secretary of state, Rex Tillerson said the U.S. and its NATO ally were struggling with "difficult choices" on a strategy to defeat the Islamic State in Syria.

The U.S. has been trying to balance its reliance on Turkey in the fight against ISIS with its support for Kurdish fighters in northern Syria — which infuriates Turkey. Tillerson said he and Turkish leaders discussed options for how to clear the extremist group from its remaining strongholds, such as Raqqa, and stabilize those areas.

Turkish police have arrested the "main suspect" from an attack on an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Day that killed at least 39 people, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Officials have not publicly named the suspect. The arrest happened late Monday during a police raid in the Esenyurt neighborhood of Istanbul, Anadolu reported.

Tuesday was supposed to be a day of triumph for Russian diplomacy, when Russia aimed to replace the United States as the indispensable power in the Middle East. Instead, it became a day of mourning, with a Turkish honor guard in Ankara loading the flag-draped coffin of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov onto a Moscow-bound plane.

Editor's note: An image below shows Ambassador Andrei Karlov on the ground after he was shot.

Russia's ambassador to Turkey has died after he was shot Monday evening at an art exhibition in the capital, Ankara, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in comments broadcast on Russian state television.

Turkey has tabled a controversial measure by the ruling party that would have allowed some sexual abusers of children to escape prison time if they married their victims. The bill was sharply criticized by opposition parties and human rights groups.

"The government was already on the defensive after demonstrations erupted to oppose the legal change," as NPR's Peter Kenyon tells our Newscast unit from Istanbul. "Critics said it amounted to a pardon for abusers, and more pain for their victims."

A car bomb in the largest majority-Kurdish city in Turkey has killed at least eight people and wounded scores more, shortly after a dozen pro-Kurdish Turkish legislators were detained by the government for questioning.

Diyarbakir is the largest city in southeast Turkey, a majority-Kurdish region. The car bomb hit Friday morning near a building used by riot police, killing both police and civilians, The Associated Press says.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said one of the assailants was "caught dead," though he did not elaborate, according to the AP.

The European Union is desperate to keep Syrian refugees from bolting from Turkey for Europe. But the prospects for Syrians in Turkey have been slim. Now the EU is launching its biggest aid program yet — more than $375 million aimed at a million of the neediest Syrians in Turkey.

And it's not bags of rice thrown from the back of a truck. It's a bit more modern: a debit card that can be used to buy whatever food, medicine or clothing a family needs, or to get cash.

German prosecutors have dropped a controversial investigation of a comedian who read a lewd poem on German television mocking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, citing a lack of evidence.

Just up the hill from Istanbul's Old City, lines are forming outside the district governor's office. This is where Turks can find a new "crisis management center," where those caught up in the post-coup purge can finally be heard in their own defense – or in defense of a relative now behind bars. At a desk, people can submit their written defenses.

Turkey's national security council is recommending a three-month extension of the state of emergency imposed following a failed coup attempt in July.

The council is chaired by the Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has presided over tens of thousands of dismissals and arrests of opposition leaders, journalists and others since the initial state of emergency went into effect on July 20, NPR's Peter Kenyon reports.

Since Turkey's government survived a violent coup attempt on July 15, it has pointed the finger at followers of an elderly, U.S.-based cleric. His name is Fethullah Gulen, and he denies any involvement. Turkey is demanding his extradition from the U.S., where he's lived in Pennsylvania since the late 1990s.

Gulen moved to America in 1999, amid worries that Turkey's secular and military elite was after him. Gulen became a close ally of Erdogan and his AKP party when the party came to power, but the two had a falling out several years later.

Turkish troops crossed into Syria early Wednesday, carrying out airstrikes and launching artillery fire to clear ISIS militants from a border area in coordination with the U.S.-led coalition.

Aref al-Krez has the look of a young, laid-back guy with well-coiffed hair, stylish clothes and carefully cultivated stubble.

But the 24-year-old Syrian refugee and father of a young daughter has a world of worries about her future and his role in it.

Like so many Syrians now living in Turkey, Krez faces huge bureaucratic hurdles while trying to obtain the right government-issued documents that prove his daughter is actually his.

A devastating suicide attack on a wedding in Turkey appears to have been orchestrated by the Islamic State, Turkish officials say.

The bombing in Gaziantep killed at least 54 people, according to local officials, and injured at least 66 more. Fourteen of the wounded are said to be critically injured.

At least 22 of the victims were children.

Since a coup attempt just over a month ago failed to dislodge the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his government has launched a sweeping purge that has impacted tens of thousands over a wide cross section of Turkish society.

More than 40,029 people have been detained and 20,355 arrested since the coup attempt on July 15, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a televised interview on Wednesday. And while many of them have been released, "a total of 5,187 are still remanded in custody."

A series of bombings in eastern Turkey left at least 10 people dead and more than 200 wounded.

Two car bombings targeted law enforcement; a third attack struck a military vehicle carrying soldiers, The Associated Press reports.

The first car bomb hit near a police station in the city of Van, near the border with Iran. It left at least two officers and one civilian dead and at least 70 people — mostly civilians — wounded, the AP reports.

Turkey is ordering the conditional release of some 38,000 prisoners to free up space for the thousands of people arrested in the aftermath of last month's failed coup.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag announced the order Wednesday, NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul. Peter tells our Newscast unit:

"[Bozdag] posted the news on his Twitter account: tens of thousands of inmates to be released early, none of them violent offenders and all nearing the end of their terms.

A Turkish admiral who just wrapped up a NATO job in Norfolk, Va., last month is being pursued by Turkish officials, who say he was part of the failed July 15 coup in Turkey.

U.S. officials say Rear Adm. Mustafa Zeki Ugurlu is considering seeking asylum in either the U.S. or another NATO country. A spokesman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Steve Blando, said, "We cannot comment on any specific asylum requests."

Turkey abolished capital punishment in 2004. But in the wake of last month's failed coup, Turks have been demanding it be reinstated for the coup plotters. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has encouraged parliament to consider such a move, saying the public will cannot be ignored.

Legal experts say applying a death sentence retroactively is problematic. European officials say a return to capital punishment would kill Turkey's bid to join the EU. But that hasn't checked a surge in public calls to bring it back.

The Turkish government has cracked down on independent media since an attempted coup on July 15, shutting down at least 45 newspapers and 16 TV stations, The Associated Press reports.

On Wednesday, the state-run news service Anadolu Agency reported 47 arrest warrants had been issued for employees of the newspaper Zaman, and 13 people had been detained.

Three years ago, Egypt's military carried out a swift and successful coup, ousting a conservative Muslim ruler and party that had been elected. A part of Turkey's armed forces attempted a very similar overthrow on July 15.

In both countries, the two most populous in the region, democracy suffered a setback in the wake of the military actions.

The parallels mostly end there.

Turkey has detained thousands of people in the wake of a failed coup attempt earlier this month. Now, Amnesty International reports that it has evidence that some detainees in Istanbul and the capital Ankara have been subjected to torture and rape.

Turks survived a chaotic and bloody attempted military takeover on Friday that left more than 260 dead. Since then, the government has suspended thousands of public and private sector employees — everyone from teachers to police officers. Meanwhile, the parliament has ratified a state of emergency that will last up to three months. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says it's necessary to protect democracy. But many Turks are afraid of what's to come.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced a three-month state of emergency for Turkey following a failed coup attempt over the weekend.

The state of emergency will give broad powers to security forces and the government, NPR's Peter Kenyon reports. Erdogan says it will make it more efficient to round up, question and try people accused of supporting the coup.

Days after a failed coup, Turkey has asked the U.S. to extradite a cleric it accuses of inciting the takeover attempt. The request comes as the Turkish government has extended a crackdown to the Education Ministry, dismissing more than 15,000 people, state media report.

The White House confirmed receiving electronic materials Tuesday for the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, who has resided in Pennsylvania since the 1990s, according to the Associated Press.

Updated at 10:00 am:

A coup attempt by factions in the Turkish military crumbled Saturday as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made his way to Istanbul and his government began reestablishing control after a long night of widespread violence.

"The people have taken to the streets and voiced their support for democracy," the acting head of the military, Gen. Umit Dundar, said at a news conference Saturday. "The nation will never forget this betrayal."

A car bomb in central Istanbul has killed at least 11 people and injured dozens more.

The explosion struck during the morning rush hour and targeted a police bus, The Associated Press reports.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu — who is supposed to be in charge of the government, according to the country's constitution — abruptly announced he won't seek to continue in office, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to press for more executive power.

After meeting with Erdogan in the capital city of Ankara, Davutoglu told a news conference today that there will be an extraordinary congress of the ruling AK Party on May 22 and that he won't be standing for party leader, thereby ending his term as prime minister after just 20 months.

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