Turkey coup: US warns against 'insinuations' of involvement

Ankara:  The US has warned Turkey against "public insinuations" of American involvement in a failed military coup, saying such claims were "utterly false and harmful" to their relations. After Turkey's Labour Minister suggested Washington's involvement in the coup, Secretary of State John Kerry said the US was "willing to provide assistance conducting investigation in the attempted coup, but that public insinuations or claims about any role by the US are utterly false and harmful to our bilateral relations". Kerry reiterated US support for the democratically elected government in Turkey, a statement from the US State Department said. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday urged the US to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the US in self-exile, whom he has accused of being behind the plot. Gulen, speaking from his home in Pennsylvania, denied the claims and said "as someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt". The attempted coup began on Friday night when a faction of the military took over key bridges in Istanbul and attacked parliament buildings in Ankara. According to Turkish government, 161 people -- civilians and police -- and 104 "plotters" were killed in ensuing clashes. Over 1,440 people were injured. Nearly 3,000 soldiers were detained and more than 2,700 judges were sacked on Saturday as the government sought to re-assert its power. Many within Turkey's military and mid-level bureaucracy supported Fethullah Gulen, the inspiration behind the hugely-influential Hizmet movement. Once allies, Erdogan has long accused Gulen and his supporters of plotting against him. Erdogan told the US that it had never refused the country's extradition request for "terrorists", and asked Washington to extradite Gulen "if we are strategic partners". Kerry said the US fully anticipated "there will be questions raised about Gulen", adding that Turkey should "present us with any legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny. And the US will accept that and look at it and make judgements about it appropriately", BBC reported. The attempted coup occurred because Turkey is deeply divided over Erdogan's project to transform the country and the contagion of violence from the war in Syria. Erdogan, expert at winning elections, has always been doubted about his long-term commitment to democracy. Erdogan is a political Islamist who has rejected modern Turkey's secular heritage. He has become increasingly authoritarian and trying to turn himself into a strong executive president. Erdogan's government has been deeply involved in the war in Syria, backing Islamist opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But violence has spread across the border, helping to reignite the fight with the Kurdish PKK, and making Turkey a target for the Islamic State.