THE SAS is poised to swoop into Turkey and rescue thousands of British holidaymakers and expats if the country suffers another military coup.
PUBLISHED: 17:23, Sun, Jul 24, 2016 | UPDATED: 17:37, Sun, Jul 24, 2016
With fears rebels could be about to try to overthrow the government for a second time, which is likely to result in a Turkish civil war, troops have moved into neighbouring Cyprus and are preparing a rescue mission to save stranded Britons.
Defence chiefs have drawn up emergency plans and fully armed soldiers, together with members of the Special Forces Support Group, are ready to fly into areas popular with tourists and help families get home safely.
Hundreds of jets, helicopters and other aircraft will be drafted in to help the estimated 50,000 Brits flee the danger.
The troops will be cleared to open fire if local rebels threaten to intervene.
One senior defence source told the Daily Star Sunday: “Turkey is on the brink. If there is another coup attempt then civil war will follow. If that happens there will be a major international crisis.
“Every country with nationals living in or on holiday in Turkey will be attempting to rescue them and we intend to be ahead of the game.”
Hundreds of civilians were killed since an attempt to overthrow the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, was launched a week ago.
Some Britons are still travelling to Turkish tourism spots, like Antalya
Airlines refused to fly in and out of the country during the coup as city centres went onto lockdown.
British diplomats fear Turkey, which borders Iraq, Iran and Syria, is now so unstable further bloodshed is inevitable.
Some British tourists might be able to leave using holiday airlines but the Government fears that if civil war breaks out in Turkey, thousands could be trapped in the panic to escape, so the extra measures have been brought in.
The rescue operation would be based out of Cyprus’ RAF Akrotiri, less than 100 miles from Turkey, but Royal Navy warships already in the Mediterranean could be called into action if Prime Minister Theresa May gives the order.
British troops will establish “secure zones” inside Turkey and at airports to aid the airlift.
The SAS has conducted evacuation operations before, most recently in Lebanon, but nothing on this scale.
Some Britons have already cut short their holidays after President Erdogan began rounding up thousands of people allegedly linked to the coup.
But others have decided to stick with their plans after their holiday companies refused to give them a refund.
Britons on holiday in Turkey have reported quieter than normal hotels and half empty beaches as terrified travellers avoid the once popular destination.