More than 100 Turks and foreign nationals welcoming the start of the new year in Istanbul were victims of a shooting spree at a popular nightclub that left 39 dead and another 69 wounded.
How did it happen?
Media reports say the attacker is believed to have taken a taxi from the Istanbul’s southern Zeytinburnu district to Reina nightclub, a popular nightclub among tourists and Turkish socialites. At the time of the incident, around 600 people were inside Reina. Upon arrival, the attacker shot dead a police officer and a civilian at the door, forcing his way into the club, where he then unleashed a fury of some 180 bullets, according to authorities, as well as throwing hand grenades.
“At first we thought some men were fighting with each other,” said a Lebanese woman who gave her name as Hadeel and who was in the club with her husband and a friend. “Then we heard the sound of the gunfire and ducked under the tables.
“We heard the guy screaming Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest), all three of us heard that … We heard his footsteps crushing the broken glass,” she told Reuters. “We got out through the kitchen, there was blood everywhere and bodies.”
Some guests, like Hadeel, hid in the club and others reportedly jumped into the Bosphorus river.
In total, 39 guests, from 14 different countries, perished with another 69 injured.
The gunmen fled the scene and is still at large. Turkish police continue to distribute photographs of the alleged perpetrator. Authorities think he may be Central Asian—from either Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan—with links to ISIS, and possibly part of the same cell that responsible for June’s bombing at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.
ISIS claims responsibility for the nightclub attack.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the New Year’s attack at Istanbul’s Reina nightclub that left 39 dead and another 69 injured.
“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 group said in a statement following the attacks.
The latest attack has been one of a half-a-dozen to hit Turkey within the last year, though not all have been pinned on ISIS. Turkey still deals with unrest not only from ISIS but also the Kurdish militants (PKK) and alleged followers of Fethullah Gulen, who was blamed for the July’s attempted coup.
What does this mean for Turkey?
Hours after the attack, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the attacks, saying they aimed to create panic and destabilize the country. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus echoed Erdogan’s remarks and made it clear the attacks are in response to Turkish military operations in Syria, adding that the Turkish offensive in Syria would continue until all terrorism threats to Turkey were removed, going on to say, that “with all our national capacity, we will bring them to their knees.”
Just days after the attacks, Turkey has since bombed more than 100 ISIS cells in Syria, with much of the blitz occurring near the al-Bab stronghold. In cooperation with Turkish artillery, Russian forces also attacked ISIS targets in Dayr Kak, which lies five miles outside of al-Bab.
Thus far, Turkish police have detained eight suspects in the search for the attacker.
Tom is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but with more sunscreen and jorts.