It had been planned for weeks but in the end, even the coup plotters were taken by surprise.

The some 300 putschists had heard that the Turkish Government was about to issue arrest warrants for soldiers accused of supporting Fethullah Gulen, an Islamist cleric and longtime foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who lives in self-imposed exile in the US. So, they advanced their plans to Saturday in what would turn out to be a doomed attempt to catch the Government before it caught them.

While the Government has been keen to suggest a small band of low-ranking dissenters were behind the coup, a new report and the released names of military figures linked to the plot suggests it ran much deeper.

Akin Ozturk, the man thought to have been the mastermind, is a former Air Forces commander and Turkish Supreme Military Council (YAA) member.


He led a group which included the president's own top military adviser, the commander of the main air base used by US troops to launch air strikes against Isis (Islamic State) in Syria, and the commander of the powerful Second Army.

The botched coup was only put down when Erdogan loyalists responded to his calls to take to the streets to challenge the putschists. A ruthless crackdown continued yesterday with 6000 people detained.

The report, which appeared in Cumhuriyet newspaper, would explain why the events unravelled so quickly.

It emerged that at the height of the coup attempt, the rebel pilots of two F-16 fighter jets had Erdogan's plane in their sights. Erdogan was returning to Istanbul from a holiday near Marmaris when at least two F-16s harassed his plane. "Why they didn't fire is a mystery," one former military officer said. Around 25 soldiers in helicopters had descended on his hotel in Marmaris on ropes, shooting, just after Erdogan had left, in an apparent attempt to seize him.