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Story highlights

Many dramatic moments in coup attempt

Soldier is rescued by police officer from group of protesters

Government supporters stand in front of tanks to block military

(CNN) —  

A swarm of protesters surrounded a stalled tank. They hurled bricks and rocks at the vehicle, jeering and cursing the soldier.

Their anger was palpable during a violent, military coup attempt that brought tanks rolling through the streets of Ankara and Istanbul, a bomb tossed in Parliament and heavy artillery in their cities.

Supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan swarmed the streets to thwart the military’s advances to seize control. Unarmed civilians carrying cell phones confronted tanks and military vehicles as clashes broke out throughout the country.

A man lays in front of a tank at the entrance to Istanbul Ataturk Airport.
Ismail Coskun/IHA/
A man lays in front of a tank at the entrance to Istanbul Ataturk Airport.

Some stood in front of tanks – much like the famous Tiananmen Square photo – to block the military from taking control of key areas. One man even lay in the street directly in the path of a moving tank at Istanbul Ataturk Airport.

After a harrowing night, the crowds were angry. At least 161 people died in the attempted coup, said Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

A small gesture amid chaos

Soldiers surrender on Bosphoros bridge in Istanbul.
Gokhan Tan/Getty Images
Soldiers surrender on Bosphoros bridge in Istanbul.

On Saturday, protesters surrounded a military tank, as shown in footage shot by CNN affiliate IHA. The exact location of the incident was not immediately clear.

A lone crew member popped his head out of the hatch as smoke rises around him. He looked young, with a red face and close-cropped hair.

He was immediately confronted by a protester who climbed on top of the tank. The protester tried to yank him out of the hatch, but gave up and stomped the soldier’s head instead to the applause of the the crowd.

Eventually, the young crew member emerged partly from the tank, holding both hands in the air to surrender.

Soldiers abandoned their gear on Istanbul's Bosphoros bridge.
Gokhan Tan/Getty Images
Soldiers abandoned their gear on Istanbul's Bosphoros bridge.

The crowd jeered and hurled bricks and rocks. While he was pelted with stones, two people and a police officer climbed onto the tank. The officer motioned for the crowd to stop.

The protesters immediately obeyed.

Several police officers had been killed overnight in a violent gunfire exchange with soldiers near the Parliament complex in Ankara, according to Turkey’s NTV.

Erdogan supporters capture a military tank.
Gokhan Tan/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Erdogan supporters capture a military tank.

In an extraordinary moment, the police officer protectively helped the soldier to his feet. He embraced the young man and led him away.

It offered a brief moment of humanity in an otherwise tumultuous night – a reminder that whether they were officers, civilians or soldiers, they were all compatriots.

A total of 1,563 military personnel have been detained across Turkey; many are thought to be like the soldier in the video – young and rank-and-file, a source told CNN.

Scenes from a chaotic night

A burned car in Istanbul on Saturday.
Emrah Gurel/AP
A burned car in Istanbul on Saturday.

The streets in Turkey became battlegrounds between the military and government supporters. In Istanbul, people tried to block the military vehicles from advancing by blocking roads with their cars. Many were shaken by the violence.

“There was definitely explosions and they were being launched by helicopters or the jets. This was definitely military equipment,” said Diego Cupolo, a photojournalist in Ankara, who described heavy artillery fire and tanks.

Amid tension and uncertainty, the question of how the country would heal loomed large.

Workers clean up debris at Turkish parliament in Ankara.
Erhan Ortac/Getty Images
Workers clean up debris at Turkish parliament in Ankara.

Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, pointed out that even political parties that fiercely oppose Erdogan had supported the democratically elected government.

This may be an opportunity for Erdogan to resolve some of the divisions, he said.

Turkey coup attempt: What we know

“This is time for Erdogan to open a new chapter not only regionally but domestically,” Gerges said. “This is deactivating the cultural, ethnic and ideological minefields that have been opened up in Turkey in the past five years.”