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Istanbul nightclub gun attack killed 39.

A lone gunman
opened fire on New Year revelers at a packed nightclub on the shores of
Istanbul’s Bosphorus waterway on Sunday killing at least 39 people,
including many foreigners, then fled the scene.
Some
people jumped into the Bosphorus waters to save themselves after the
attacker opened fire at random in the Reina nightclub just an hour into
the new year.

Officials
spoke of a single attacker but some reports, including on social media,
suggested there may have been more, at least one of them wearing a Santa
Claus costume which he ditched in order to escape.

The attack shook NATO member Turkey
as it tries to recover from a failed July coup and a series of deadly
bombings in cities including Istanbul and the capital Ankara, some
blamed on Islamic State and others claimed by Kurdish militants.

Security
services had been on alert across Europe for new year celebrations
following an attack on a Christmas market in Berlin that killed 12
people. Only days ago, an online message from a pro-Islamic State group
called for attacks by “lone wolves” on “celebrations, gatherings and
clubs”.

The Hurriyet newspaper cited witnesses as saying the attackers shouted in Arabic as they opened fire at Reina.

“We
were having fun. All of a sudden people started to run. My husband said
don’t be afraid, and he jumped on me. People ran over me. My husband
was hit in three places,” one club-goer, Sinem Uyanik, told the
newspaper.

“I managed to push through and get out, it was terrible,” she said, describing seeing people soaked in blood.

Turkish
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 15 or 16 of those killed were
foreigners but that only 21 of the bodies had so far been identified. He
said 69 people were in hospital, four of them in a critical condition.

“A
manhunt for the terrorist is underway. Police have launched operations.
We hope the attacker will be captured soon,” he told reporters.

Turkey is part of the U.S.-led coalition against
Islamic State and launched an incursion into Syria in August to drive
the radical Sunni militants from its borders. It also helped broker a
fragile ceasefire in Syria with Russia.  

The Reina club is one of Istanbul’s
most well known and is popular with locals and foreigners alike. It
overlooks the Bosphorus Strait separating Europe and Asia in the city’s
cosmopolitan Ortakoy district.

As
many as 600 people were thought to have been inside when the gunman
shot dead a policeman at the door, forced his way in and then opened
fire.

Istanbul Governor
Vasip Sahin said the attacker had used a “long-range weapon” to
“brutally and savagely” fire on people, apparently referring to some
form of assault rifle.
U.S.
President Barack Obama, on vacation in Hawaii, expressed condolences
and directed his team to offer help to the Turkish authorities, the
White House said.

“POLICE MOVED IN QUICKLY”

Dozens
of ambulances and police vehicles were dispatched to the club in
Ortakoy, a neighborhood on the city’s European side nestled under one of
three bridges crossing the Bosphorus and home to nightclubs,
restaurants and art galleries.

“I
didn’t see who was shooting but heard the gun shots and people fled.
Police moved in quickly,” Sefa Boydas, a Turkish soccer player, wrote on
Twitter.

“My girlfriend was wearing high heels. I lifted her and carried her out on my back,” he said.
Hurriyet
quoted Reina’s owner, Mehmet Kocarslan, as saying security measures had
been taken over the past 10 days after U.S. intelligence reports
suggested a possible attack.

The U.S. Embassy has repeatedly warned that “extremist groups are continuing aggressive efforts” to carry out attacks in Turkey.

Turkey faces multiple security
threats including spillover from the war in neighboring Syria. As well
as its cross-border campaign against Islamic State, it is also fighting
Kurdish militants in its own southeast.

The
New Year’s Day attack came five months after Turkey was shaken by a
failed military coup, in which more than 240 people were killed, many of
them in Istanbul, as rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and fighter jets
in a bid to seize power.

More
than 100,000 people, including soldiers and police officers, have been
sacked or suspended in a subsequent crackdown ordered by President
Tayyip Erdogan, raising concern both about civic rights in Turkey and
the effectiveness of Turkey’s security apparatus.

On
Dec. 28, the Nashir Media Foundation, which backs Islamic State, urged
sympathizers to carry out attacks in Europe during the holiday period
and to “replace their fireworks with explosive belts and devices, and
turn their singing and clapping into weeping and wailing”.
A
month ago, a spokesman for Islamic State called on supporters to carry
out a wave of attacks and urged them to target “the secular, apostate
Turkish government”.

Turkey
has seen repeated attacks in recent weeks. On Dec. 10, two bombs
claimed by Kurdish militants exploded outside a soccer stadium in
Istanbul, killing 44 people, most of them police officers, and wounding
more than 150.

A car bomb
killed at least 13 soldiers and wounded 56 when it ripped through a bus
carrying off-duty military personnel in the central Turkish city of
Kayseri a week later, an attack President Tayyip Erdogan also blamed on
Kurdish militants.

The
Russian ambassador to Turkey was shot in the back and killed as he gave a
speech at an Ankara art gallery on Dec. 19 by an off-duty police
officer who shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo” and “Allahu Akbar” as he
opened fire.

In June,
around 45 people were killed and hundreds wounded as three suspected
Islamic State militants carried out a gun and bomb attack on Istanbul’s
main Ataturk airport.

 

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