Turkish Air Force wanted to down rebel jets on coup night

The commander of the Turkish Air Force on the night of the July 2016 attempted coup told an Ankara court that he had attempted to contact the prime minister by telephone to get permission to shoot down F-16s but that the line had been cut. 

Now retired and speaking as a witness, General Abidin Ünal, told the court trying military officers accused of taking part in the coup attempt of July 15, 2016, that he had been in Istanbul on the night, Cumhuriyet reported. 

“I tried to ring the prime minister, to get permission to order that the F-16s (taking part in the coup) be shot down. The phone rang a few times and then the line was cut. I couldn’t reach the prime minister that night,” Ünal said, noting that in normal conditions permission from the prime minister must be given before what he called terrorist aircraft are shot down. 

The retired general said he was in Istanbul when he learnt in the early evening that air space had been closed and that it was later, at a wedding party, when he heard the sound of military jets. It was at that point he thought there was a coup attempt in progress. 

Ünal said he contacted by telephone Hakan Evrim, commander of the Akıncı Airbase in Ankara, and ordered him to get the F-16s back to base. Evrim refused. It was at that stage that Ünal attempted to phone the prime minister but could not get through.