The Turkish police fought on Sunday to find a shooter who attacked the New Year’s Eve party in a popular nightclub in Istanbul, killing at least 39 people, most of them foreigners. Almost 70 others were injured.
The attacker, armed with a long-barreled weapon, killed a policeman and a civilian outside the Reina Club around 1:15 before entering and shooting at party parties, said the governor Of Istanbul, Vasip Sahin.
“Unfortunately, it rained the bullets in a very cruel and unforgiving way on innocent people who were there to celebrate the New Year and have fun,” Sahin told reporters.
Almost two-thirds of those killed were foreigners, many of whom were from the Middle East, Anadolu reported. He said that the bodies of 25 foreign nationals killed in the attack would be delivered to their families on Monday.
Countries from India to Belgium have reported their citizens among the victims.
It is estimated that 600 people celebrated inside the club, which is often frequented by famous locals, including singers, actors and sports stars. Several shocked partygoers were seen fleeing the scene after the shooting and the music remained silent.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for what the authorities immediately called a terrorist attack. The Turkish officials did not comment on the shooter’s identity or possible motives.
The massacre followed more than 30 violent acts during the past year in Turkey, a member of the NATO alliance and a partner of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic state group in Syria And in Iraq. The country suffered several bombings in 2016, including three in Istanbul alone, which the authorities blamed on the IS, a failed coup attempt in July and a new conflict with Kurdish rebels in the south- East.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vehemently condemned “the terrorist attack in Istanbul’s Ortakoy neighborhood in the early hours of 2017” and expressed condolences to those who lost their lives, including “foreign guests” .
Among the dead were an 18-year-old Israeli woman, three Indians, three Lebanese, a woman with dual French-Tunisian nationality and her Tunisian husband, three Jordanians, a Belgian, a Kuwaiti citizen and a Canadian, according to these countries. And a diplomat.
An official of the US State Department, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said an American man was among the wounded. The Turkish Minister of Family and Social Policy, Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, said that citizens of Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon and Libya were among the wounded.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the armed man, who had not been identified, remained at large. “Our security forces have begun the necessary operations. God willing, it will be caught in a short period of time,” Soylu said.
Private TV station NTV said the assailant was wearing a Santa outfit when he entered the high-end disco on the Bosphorus shore directly on the European side of the city – a claim that Prime Minister Binali Yildirim Has denied.
Images of security cameras obtained by The Associated Press from the Haberturk newspaper show what appears to be a man dressed in black and carrying a backpack while he shoots a police officer out of the nightclub. Sequences taken by a different camera inside Reina shows a character wearing different clothes and what could be a Santa hat.
Yildirim said the striker left a rifle at the club and escaped by “taking advantage of the chaos” that followed. Some customers reportedly jumped into the waters of the Bosphorus to escape the attack.
Mehmet Dag, 22, said he was passing through the club when he saw a man shoot a policeman and a spectator. He said the attacker then targeted security guards, knocking them down and entering the club.
“Once he came in, we do not know what happened. There were shots, and after two minutes the sound of an explosion,” Dag said.
Turkish media reported that local victims included a 22-year-old police officer and a 47-year-old travel agent, both killed outside the club.
One of them received a funeral Sunday in Istanbul, where his two sons joined the bereaved people gathered around the coffin draped by a flag, reported the private news agency Dogan.
Ayhan Arik, an employee of the tourism company who had taken foreign guests to the nightclub, was shot in the head, the news agency said.
On Sunday, a heavily armed police blocked the snowy street in front of the nightclub. The entrance was covered with blue plastic sheets under a Turkish flag. The police also patrolled the Asian side of the Bosphorus on the other side of the club.
Crime scene investigators were seen inside the nightclub looking through piles of chairs, tables and clothes left during the panic among the guests.
There were emotional scenes in front of a morgue in the city where the dead were taken for identification. Some parents shouted and fell to the ground as they apparently learned the fate of their loved ones.
A statement reminded US citizens that extremists “are pursuing aggressive efforts to carry out attacks in areas where US citizens and expatriates reside or frequent the United States.”
The United States denied reports in new Turkish outlets and on social media that their security agencies knew in advance that the nightclub was in danger of a terrorist attack. The US Embassy in Ankara said in a statement that “unlike rumors circulating in social media, the US government had no information about threats to certain entertainment venues, including the Reina Club.”
Turkey faces a wide range of security threats.
The Islamic state group claims to have cells in the country. Analysts believe it was behind the suicide bombings in January and March that targeted tourists on Istanbul’s famous Istiklal Street as well as a suicide attack at Ataturk airport in June.
In December, IS published a supposed video showing the killing of two Turkish soldiers and urged its supporters to “conquer” Istanbul. Aircraft from Turkey regularly bombard the group in the Syrian city of northern Al-Bab. The Turkish authorities have not confirmed the authenticity of the video.
Turkey’s violence in 2016 also reflects the intensification of armed conflict between the government and the Kurdish rebels. Kurdish groups based in Turkey have claimed multiple suicide bombings. The government said the Kurdish affiliates in Syria and Iraq shared responsibility.
Complicating things, Turkey underwent a coup attempt on 15 July, which the government awarded to an Islamist cleric based in the United States. A state of emergency has been in force since then, and the authorities have served key institutions, including the army and the police.
The violence left the nation on the edge and kept tourists at bay. In Istanbul, a vibrant city that connects Europe and Asia, the record of the economy translates into the closure of emblematic restaurants and lower hotel prices.
The attack on the night club quickly condemned the West and Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to the Turkish leader saying “it is hard to imagine a crime more cynical than killing innocent people during the New Year celebrations.”
“However, terrorists do not share moral values. Our common duty is to fight against the aggression of terrorists,” Putin said.
The White House condemned what he called a “horrific terrorist attack” and offered American aid to Turkey. The UN Security Council condemned the “heinous and barbaric” aggression in the “strongest terms.”
Yildirim, the prime minister, promised to continue fighting terrorism, adding that “the terror that occurs here today can happen in another country in the world tomorrow.”