Tanks move into position as Turkish people attempt to stop them, in Ankara, Turkey, July 15, 2016.
Tanks move into position as Turkish people attempt to stop them, in Ankara, Turkey, July 15, 2016.

Hundreds of protesters faced off with soldiers in Istanbul's Taksim Square — forcing the 20 or so soldiers to fire their guns in the air, VOA's Dorian Jones reported Friday.

Jones, who was at the square, managed to reach a friend's home a short time later. Conditions are too dangerous for him to cross over the bridge to the other side of the city where he lives — shortly after he got to his friend's home, two jets screamed overhead and he heard a large explosion.

Still, he said it appears the activity was slowing down in Istanbul, although there were reports of some military activity in the city and "Ankara is still very, very hot," with protests and soldiers in the streets of the capital. Bomb blasts were reported in the parliament.

Jones reported that just before 3 a.m., "it's become eerily quiet all of a sudden." No jets, no guns, no protests in the area. 

Earlier, imams at some mosques had been reciting a call to prayer traditionally used for funerals. Jones says many Turks heard the call to prayer as a signal to come out to protest, and they did.

The protests appear to have overwhelmed the troops in some areas.

Turkish soldiers secure the area as supporters of
Turkish soldiers secure the area as supporters of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan protest in Istanbul's Taksim square, early Saturday, July 16, 2016.

And, Jones says, the coup leaders apparently failed to capture any top leaders in the military command or in the government.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was on vacation on the coast when the coup attempt was launched. The military "doesn't appear to have the numbers to carry out a successful coup," he said.

What comes next is hard to say. Government officials have threatened the most extreme punishments for the coup plotters, Jones said, which could mean the death penalty. That could be politically unsettling.

"It's going to be very, very tough," he said.

Jones' evening began at a party, which was interrupted by the news of military activity and reports of gunfire in the capital, Ankara, and in Istanbul. Military helicopters were flying overhead.

Jones, a longtime resident of Turkey, says that tensions between Turkey's secular military and Erdogan's more Islamist government have been building since the president took office in 2014.

He says that in recent weeks, there has been growing concern that a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Turkey, the government's attacks on the Kurdish minority's PKK, and Erdogan's attempts to solidify control over the media and other institutions could spark a reaction from the military.