Istanbul nightclub carnage: Search for assailant underway

A gunman forced his way in and then opened fire in a nightclub on the shores of Istanbul's European side on Sunday, killing at least 39 people, including many foreigners, then fled the scene.

  • Date: 2017/01/02
  • Time: 09:40
  • News Code: 34828
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Istanbul nightclub carnage: Search for assailant underway

Relatives carry the coffin of Ayhan Arik, a victim of an attack by a gunman at Reina nightclub, during his funeral in Istanbul, Turkey (January 1, 2017)

VON PRESS Middle East: Some people jumped into the Bosphorus to save themselves after the attacker began shooting at random in the Reina nightclub just over an hour into the New Year. Witnesses described diving under tables as the assailant walked around spraying bullets from an automatic rifle.

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 (ISIS) and others claimed by Kurdish militants.

Officials spoke of a single attacker, a "lone wolf" in the parlance of Islamic State (ISIS), but some reports citing witnesses including on social media suggested there may have been several.

Nationals of Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Libya, Israel, a Turkish-Belgian dual citizen and a Franco-Tunisian woman were among those killed, officials said. Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh said five of the dead were from Saudi Arabia.

A massive security operation unfolded to track down the fugitive assailant or any conspirators.

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

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

"As a nation, we will fight to the end against not just the armed attacks of terror groups, but also against their economic, political and social attacks," President Tayyip Erdogan said in a written statement.

"They are trying to create chaos, demoralize our people, and destabilize our country ... We will retain our cool-headedness as a nation, standing more closely together," he said.

Police forces secure area near an Istanbul nightclub

Police forces secure area near an Istanbul nightclub, Turkey ( January 1, 2017)

Some 600 people were thought to be inside the nightclub when the gunman shot dead a policeman and civilian at the door, forced his way in and then opened fire.

Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said the attacker used a "long-range weapon" to "brutally and savagely" fire on people, apparently referring to some form of assault rifle.

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.

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

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.

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 city of Kayseri a week later, an attack Erdogan also blamed on Kurdish militants.

The Russian ambassador to Turkey was shot dead as he gave a speech in Ankara on Dec. 19 by an off-duty police officer who shouted "Don't forget Aleppo".

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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