Members of the police special forces stand guard in front of the Air Force Academy in Istanbul, Turkey, July 18, 2016.
Members of the police special forces stand guard in front of the Air Force Academy in Istanbul, Turkey, July 18, 2016.

The United States is urging Turkey to exercise restraint and act within the rule of law as it investigates last week’s failed coup, amid conflicting reports about whether a former Air Force commander confessed to being a ringleader of the attempted takeover.

The state-run Anadolu news agency reported that 8,777 officers have been suspended and 6,000 members of the judiciary and military have been detained following the attempted coup Friday, sparking concern from world leaders who warn against actions that would damage constitutional order.   

On Monday, Anadolu quoted General Akin Ozturk, who earlier had denied involvement in the uprising against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as saying that he "acted with the intention of carrying out a coup."

But the news agency has since taken the report down and his alleged involvement has been denied in reports by private news media outlets in Turkey.

In Brussels Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he supported bringing perpetrators of the attempted coup in Turkey to justice, but warned the government against going "too far" while restoring order in the country.

WATCH: Kerry discusses Turkey coup attempt

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest stressed U.S. support Turkey's "democratically elected" government and said Washington strongly values "the important relationship" with its NATO ally. But he said the government should “be supportive of due process and freedoms that are outlined in the Turkish constitution that include freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom of assembly.”

WATCH: Josh Earnest on Turkey as valued US NATO ally

Turkish President Erdogan ordered F-16 fighters to patrol Turkey's skies overnight, although there was no new sign of resistance against the government. Meanwhile, Ankara suspended annual leave for more than three million civil servants.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels that the rule of law "needs to be protected for the sake of the country."

Erdogan said Sunday he is receptive to reinstating the country's death penalty in the aftermath of the coup attempt. But Mogherini warned that such a step may end Turkey's EU membership hopes.

In Germany, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that the EU is a "community of laws and values" with which the death penalty was not compatible.

Crackdown continues

Erdogan has promised to rid Turkey of people involved in the coup attempt. "At every level of government, the period of cleaning this virus will continue," said Erdogan. "Like the cancer virus, it spreads all around the government."

State-run media report an aide to Erdogan is among those in custody, and a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Erdogan's top military aide, Colonel Ali Yazici. It was not immediately clear what role, if any, Yazici had in the failed coup attempt.

WATCH: Detained officers arrive in court

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag says Turkish authorities are accelerating arrests of people, which have included judges, military officers and soldiers. Those in custody include the commander of the Third Army Corps, General Erdal Ozturk, who could face charges of treason.

Other high-ranking military officials flew to neighboring Greece by helicopter and requested political asylum. Turkish media reports say some of those who fled are believed to be among the architects of the coup

Death penalty considered

Speaking Sunday to people who called for the death penalty outside his home in Istanbul, Erdogan said the use of capital punishment cannot be delayed, saying "We cannot ignore this demand."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses t
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the crowd following a funeral service for victims of the thwarted coup in Istanbul at Fatih Mosque in Istanbul, July 17, 2016.

His speech was punctuated by frequent calls of "we want the death penalty'' from the large crowd, to which Erdogan responded: "We hear your request. In a democracy, whatever the people want they will get.''

Erdogan said he would discuss it with opposition parties but that "We will not delay this decision for long. Because those who attempt a coup in this country must pay.''
Turkey hasn't executed anyone since 1984, and capital punishment was legally abolished in 2004 as part of Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz said the reintroduction of the death penalty would be "absolutely unacceptable" in an interview with state media ahead of his meeting with his European counterparts Monday.

Kerry denies US Involvement

Secretary Kerry has denounced suggestions that Washington was involved in Friday's failed coup in Turkey.

"We think it's irresponsible to have accusations of American involvement," Kerry told CNN on Sunday.

Turkish President Erdogan has accused Fethullah Gulen, a reclusive cleric now living in Pennsylvania, of orchestrating the violence and demanded that Gulen be extradited.

Erdogan frequently refers to "masterminds" who he says are bent on breaking up Turkey, in what appears a veiled reference to the West in general, and more specifically, the United States. On Saturday, Labor Minister Suleyman Soylu accused Washington of being behind the coup attempt.

In a phone call on Saturday Kerry told Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu “public insinuations or claims about any role by the United States in the failed coup attempt are utterly false and harmful to our bilateral relations,” according to a report of the call released by the State Department.

Kerry also told CNN that Turkey has made no formal request for Gulen's extradition, and that he'd asked the country's foreign minister to make the official request, saying that "the United States is not harboring anybody."

Gulen has denied being behind the failed coup and denied knowledge of who might be responsible.

Mourners including Turkish President Recep Tayyip
Mourners including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attend the funeral of Erdogan's campaign manager Erol Olcak, killed Friday along with his 16-year old son Abdullah and Mustafa Cambaz, while protesting the attempted coup against Turkey's governmen


Meanwhile, thousands of people attended funerals Sunday in Istanbul and Ankara for those killed.  Prayers were read simultaneously from Turkey's 85,000 mosques at noon to honor those who died.

Erdogan openly wept Sunday at the funeral for his top campaign manager and the manager's teenage son who were killed when renegade soldiers opened fire on protesters at the Bosporus bridge in Istanbul on Friday night.

He used a handkerchief to wipe away the tears and turned around as he continued to weep.

The government Monday said 208 were killed in the uprising, including 145 civilians, 60 police and three soldiers, in addition to more than 100 coup plotters.  Conditions remained tense in Istanbul, Ankara and some other provincial cities, and there were reports of sporadic violence.

US military operations

Turkey on Sunday also reopened its airspace to military aircraft, allowing the U.S.-led coalition to resume air operations against Islamic State militants.

FILE - A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II fighte
FILE - A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jet lands at Incirlik airbase in the southern city of Adana, Turkey, Dec. 10, 2015.

Turkey had closed its airspace following the attempted coup.

Turkey, a NATO member, is a key partner in U.S.-led efforts to defeat the Islamic State group and has allowed American jets to use its Incirlik air base to fly missions against the extremists in nearby Syria and Iraq.

VOA's National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin, White House Correspondent Mary Alice Salinas and VOA's Turkish service are among those who contributed to this story.

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