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The U.S. tried to kill Erdogan, says editor in chief of Turkish daily

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves during a rally in Istanbul on Monday, following an attempted military coup in Turkey. (Turkish Presidential Press Office via European Pressphoto Agency)

A column in a major Turkish daily claims the United States planned last week's failed coup and tried to kill Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ibrahim Karagul, editor in chief of Yeni Safak, a right-wing newspaper, pinned the putsch on Washington, which has given sanctuary to the controversial figure whose movement Turkish authorities claim was behind the attempted violent takeover of the state. The ongoing purge of thousands of members of the country's military, judiciary and civil bureaucracy is ostensibly aimed at rooting out those linked to Fethullah Gulen, the aging Turkish cleric who lives in a compound in Pennsylvania.

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"The U.S. administration planned a coup in Turkey through the Gülen terror organization and tried to cause a civil war, make our people kill each other," wrote Karagul. "The U.S. is the one who planned and applied this coup attempt. Those generals, those traitors got all the instructions from Gülen and he conveyed the orders of those who planned the intervention."

He continued: "The U.S. administration which protects a terrorist organization should be declared as a country that supports terrorism. This country, which is still carrying out operations on Turkey through Gülen, directed its final attack especially on our country and rained bullets on our civilian people through Gülen's terrorists."

Karagul has a penchant for these sorts of hard-line tirades, but his rhetoric echoes the thinking of a certain constituency in Turkey. The Daily Sabah, the English edition of another pro-government newspaper, ran a more delicately worded poll on its Twitter account:

Erdogan, as well as other officials in his government, have called on Washington to investigate Gulen and his alleged network of conspirators. They have also indicated that they will likely request his extradition to Turkey.

It's unclear how the United States will handle the situation, which now wholly shadows relations with a vital NATO ally. American officials have watched Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian rule with a jaundiced eye and were joined by counterparts in Europe in expressing concern over the nature of his government's crackdown in the wake of the coup.

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A Monday statement from John Bass, the U.S. ambassador in Turkey, expressed unequivocal support for Turkey's democratically elected government and said speculation that Washington somehow backed the coup "is harmful to the decades-long friendship between two great nations."

The State Department's deputy spokesman, Mark Toner, rejected the charges by the Yeni Safak journalist.

"We flatly deny these allegations," Toner told WorldViews in an emailed statement. "As Secretary [of State John F.] Kerry made clear to his Turkish counterpart, in the aftermath of this failed coup attempt, the United States absolutely supports the democratically elected civilian government and its democratic institutions. Any insinuation otherwise is absolutely false."

As WorldViews noted on the night of the coup, Erdogan's government was angry with Washington's relative inaction in 2013, when Egypt's democratically elected Islamist government of President Mohamed Morsi was unseated by a military coup. There's a reasonable line of thinking that had the coup succeeded in its attempt — and there's increasing evidence that it almost did — Washington would have managed to go along with the outcome, given its earlier history of tacitly tolerating the meddling of the military.

Karagul sees it all as a breathless, historic battle: "If they succeeded, there were going to be cries of joy in the U.S. and Europe," he wrote. "Because today, they are fighting with us like they fought in World War I. But once more their ships sank in the waters of the Dardanelles. They will always sink. They are never going to be able to intervene in the fate of this nation."

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