Sunday 30 April 2017

Islamic State claim responsibility for New Year's eve nightclub attack that left 39 dead in Turkey

Relatives and friends mourn at a coffin during the funeral yesterday of Ayhan Arik, one of the 39 victims of the gun attack in the Reina Photo: Burak Kara/Getty Images
Relatives and friends mourn at a coffin during the funeral yesterday of Ayhan Arik, one of the 39 victims of the gun attack in the Reina Photo: Burak Kara/Getty Images

Zeynep Bilginsoy and Suzan Fraser

Islamic State have claimed responsibility for a gun attack on an Istanbul nightclub which killed 39 people on Sunday, the group said in a statement.

"In continuation of the blessed operations that Islamic State is conducting against the protector of the cross, Turkey, a heroic soldier of the caliphate struck one of the most famous nightclubs where the Christians celebrate their apostate holiday," the statement said.

A massive manhunt is under way to track down the man who gunned down New Year's Eve revellers at a popular Istanbul nightclub, killing at least 39 people, most of them foreigners.

Nearly 70 more people were wounded in the atrocity at the Reina club in the city's Ortakoy neighbourhood.

  • Read More:

Wearing a Santa hat and armed with a long-barrelled weapon, the shooter killed a policeman and a civilian outside the club at around 1.15am local time before entering and firing at people partying inside.

Nearly two-thirds of the people killed were foreigners, many from the Middle East, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency said.

It said the bodies of 25 foreign nationals killed in the attack would be repatriated to their families on Monday.

Countries from India to Belgium reported their citizens among the casualties.

An estimated 600 people were celebrating the New Year inside the club, which is often frequented by famous locals, including singers, actors and sports stars.

Shocked revellers were seen fleeing the scene after the shooting and the music fell silent.

Police in Istanbul Photo: Reuters/Huseyin Aldemir
Police in Istanbul Photo: Reuters/Huseyin Aldemir

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for what authorities immediately called a terrorist attack. Turkish officials did not comment on the possible identity or motives of the gunman.

The mass shooting followed more than 30 violent acts over the past year in Turkey, which is a member of the Nato alliance and a partner in the US-led coalition fighting against the Islamic State terror group in Syria and Iraq.

The country endured multiple bombings in 2016, including three in Istanbul alone that authorities blamed on IS, a failed coup attempt in July and renewed conflict with Kurdish rebels in the south east.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned "the terror attack in Istanbul's Ortakoy neighbourhood in the first hours of 2017" and offered condolences for those who lost their lives, including the "foreign guests".

Paramedics take an injured woman from the nightclub after the attack Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Paramedics take an injured woman from the nightclub after the attack Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Among the dead were an 18-year-old Israeli woman, three Indians, three Lebanese, a woman with dual French-Tunisian citizenship and her Tunisian husband, two Jordanians, a Belgian national, a Kuwaiti citizen and a Canadian.

A US State Department official said an American man was among the injured and Turkey's minister for family and social policies, Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, said citizens of Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon and Libya were also wounded.

Interior minister Suleyman Soylu said the gunman, who has not been identified, remained at large.

The private NTV news channel said the assailant was wearing a Santa Claus outfit when he entered the nightclub on the shore of the Bosporus strait, on the European side of the city - a claim prime minister Binali Yildirim denied.

Security camera footage obtained by The Associated Press from Haberturk newspaper shows what appears to be a man dressed in black and carrying a backpack as he shoots down a police officer outside the nightclub.

An attacker carrying a gun walks in the nightclub in Istanbul, early Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. An assailant believed to have been dressed in a Santa Claus costume opened fire at a crowded nightclub in Istanbul during New Year's celebrations, killing dozens of people and wounding tens of others in what the province's governor described as a terror attack. (Haberturk Gazetesi Yildirim Ekspresi via AP) )
An attacker carrying a gun walks in the nightclub in Istanbul, early Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. An assailant believed to have been dressed in a Santa Claus costume opened fire at a crowded nightclub in Istanbul during New Year's celebrations, killing dozens of people and wounding tens of others in what the province's governor described as a terror attack. (Haberturk Gazetesi Yildirim Ekspresi via AP) )

Footage taken by a different camera inside the club shows a figure wearing different clothes and what could be a Santa Claus hat.

Mr Yildirim said the attacker left a gun at the club and escaped by "taking advantage of the chaos" that ensued. Some customers reportedly jumped into the waters of the Bosporus to escape the attack.

He vowed to keep fighting terrorism, adding that "the terror that happens here today may happen in another country in the world tomorrow".

Mehmet Dag, 22, who was passing the club, saw a man shoot at a police officer and a bystander, then shooting security guards and entering the club.

"Once he went in, we don't know what happened. There were gun sounds, and after two minutes the sound of an explosion," Mr Dag said.

Turkish media said the victims included a 22-year-old police officer and a 47-year-old travel agent, both of whom were shot outside the club.

One was given a funeral Sunday in Istanbul, where his two sons joined the mourners gathered around the flag-draped coffins.

Ayhan Arik, a tourism company employee who had taken foreign guests to the nightclub, was shot in the head, the private Dogan news agency said.

On Sunday, heavily-armed police blocked the snowy street in front of the nightclub and also patrolled the Asian side of the Bosporus on the other side of the building.

Crime scene investigators were seen inside the club searching through mangled piles of chairs, tables and pieces of clothing left behind during the panic.

There were emotional scenes in front of a mortuary where the dead were taken for identification, with some relatives falling to the ground as they learned the fate of their loved ones.

The US consulate general in Istanbul warned Americans to keep their movements in the city "to an absolute minimum", reminding them that extremists "are continuing aggressive efforts to conduct attacks in areas where US citizens and expatriates reside or frequent".

The United States denied reports in Turkish news outlets and on social media that its security agencies knew in advance that the nightclub was at risk of a terror attack.

The US embassy in Ankara said "contrary to rumours circulating in social media, the US government had no information about threats to specific entertainment venues, including the Reina Club."

Russian president Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to Turkey's leader, saying that "it is hard to imagine a more cynical crime than killing innocent people during New Year celebrations".

"However, terrorists don't share moral values. Our common duty is to combat terrorists' aggression," he added.

The White House described the massacre as a "horrific terrorist attack" and the United Nations Security Council condemned the "heinous and barbaric" assault in the "strongest terms".

Online Editors

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in World News