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Turkish military members flee to Greece after coup as Erdogan fingers US based cleric

Nasos Koukakis, special to
Turkish military stand guard near the Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, July 15, 2016.
Murad Sezer | Reuters

A handful of Turkish army members who participated in a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan commandeered a helicopter and fled to Greece, authorities said on Saturday, but the euro zone country indicated the bid was likely to be rejected.

The aborted move to overthrow the Erdogan government stunned the world and left hundreds dead after forces loyal to the embattled president pushed back against the military putsch. After foiling his ouster, Erdogan fingered U.S.-based moderate cleric Fethullah Gulen, and said he would formally request his extradition from the U.S. to face charges in Turkey.

CNN Turk tweet

The identities and leadership of the coup weren't immediately clear, but on Saturday, a Turkish Army Aviation Black Hawk helicopter landed in the International Airport of Alexandroupoli of northern Greece. The copter transmitted a distress signal that cited mechanical failure.

According to the Greek Aviation Authority, the helicopter was flying at very low altitude and approached from the east. Its crew made the first call on an emergency frequency within 10 miles from the airport of Alexandroupoli.

Greek authority's gave direct permission to the helicopters crew to approach the airport and provided all relevant meteorological information and the runway in use. At the same time, two Greek fighter jets took off to accompany the Black Hawk.

Yet the soldiers' bid for asylum appeared to end in the same failure as the coup. After the helicopter touched down, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu asked Greece to extradite the officers back to the country. In a tweet later on Saturday, Cavusoglu said the servicemen would be returned to Turkey:

Turkey tweet

Greek government spokesperson Olga Gerovasili said on Hellenic Public TV that the Greek authorities have communicated with their Turkish counterparts to arrange the swift return of the Turkish helicopter.

After landing the Greek Police checked the helicopter and during the investigation found that there were eight passengers, who were arrested.

According to media reports later confirmed by the Greek Government, the crew was wearing military uniforms and requested immediate political asylum. An Athens News Agency report said three of them bore the rank of major, three others were captains, while the remaining two were sergeants.

Gerovasili stressed that Greece will follow the procedures provided for by the international law. However Gerovasili underlined that "in examining their requests, it will be taken very seriously into account that they participated in an attempt to overthrow the democratic regime and the constitutional order in the neighboring country."

An asylum request normally takes a few weeks to process, Greek officials say.

Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias spoke with his Turkish counterpart, assuring him that "Greece condemns any attempted coup and supports the struggle of the Turkish people for democracy and upholding the constitutional order in Turkey."

Kotzias also spoke about the developments in Turkey with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini.

Later on Saturday, the Blackhawk helicopter commandeered by the asylum seekers returned to Turkey piloted by another crew of Turkish airmen, who arrived in Greece via another copter.

--CNBC's Javier E. David and The Associated Press contributed to this article.