ANKARA: A Turkish army faction backed by tanks and fighter jets staged an attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday but the strongman returned to Istanbul defiantly claiming to have regained control. Soldiers and tanks took to the streets late on Friday and multiple explosions rang out throughout the night in Ankara and Istanbul, the two biggest cities of the strategic NATO country of 80 million people. Local TV said 42 people had been killed, according to a local prosecutor. Erdogan predicted the move would fail and crowds of supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came out onto the streets to try to block the putsch. After hours of chaos unseen in decades, the president ended uncertainty over his whereabouts, flying into Istanbul airport in the early hours of the morning where he made a defiant speech and was greeted by hundreds of supporters. Erdogan denounced the coup attempt as “treachery” but said he was carrying out his functions and would keep on working “to the end”. “What is being perpetrated is a treason and a rebellion. They will pay a heavy price for this act of treason,” Erdogan said at Istanbul’s airport. “We will not leave our country to occupiers.” With Turkish officials insisting the coup was faltering and Erdogan ordering the army to shoot down planes being used by the plotters, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 120 of those involved had been arrested. Bombs and fighter jets The sound of F16 fighter jets flying over the capital Ankara signalled the start of the putsch late on Friday, with troops also moving to block the bridges across the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul. As protesters took to the streets, an AFP photographer saw troops open fire on people gathered near one of the bridges, leading to numerous casualties. State-run news agency Anadolu reported that parliament in Ankara had been bombed and regular explosions could be heard from the AFP office situated near the complex. World leaders called for calm, with US President Barack Obama and other Western countries urging support for the government which he said had been elected in democratic elections. The night of violence brings new instability to the Middle East region, with Turkey a key powerbroker in the ongoing Syria conflict. ‘Power seized’ After the initial dramatic military movements, state broadcaster TRT said the troops behind the putsch had declared martial law and a curfew in a statement signed by a group calling itself the “Council for Peace in the Homeland”. “The power in the country has been seized in its entirety,” the statement said. It said the coup had been launched “to ensure and restore constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms and let the supremacy of the law in the country prevail, to restore order which was disrupted”. No named military officer claimed responsibility for the actions, though Erdogan later said he didn’t know the whereabouts of his army chief, General Hulusi Akar. Turkey’s once-powerful military has long considered itself the guardian of the secular state founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923. It has staged three coups since 1960 and forced out an Islamic government in 1997. Erdogan’s critics have long accused him of undermining modern Turkey’s secular roots and of sliding into authoritarianism. But the president was believed to have won control of the military after purging elements who opposed him.