January 1 2017 – 9:06PM
Istanbul, Turkey nightclub attack: more than a dozen foreigners among the dead, say officials
Istanbul: Police in Istanbul launched a manhunt on Sunday for a gunman who killed at least 39 people, many of them foreigners, at a nightclub packed with New Year’s revellers, in an attack officials described as a terrorist act.
The gunman shot his way into the Reina nightclub at around 1.15am local time, just over an hour into the new year, killing a police officer and a civilian as he entered before opening fire at random inside
Dozens killed in Turkey nightclub attack
RAW: Scenes outside a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey, where at least 35 people have been killed and dozens more wounded after an attacker opened fire on revelers.
Some witnesses spoke of multiple attackers, but officials have not confirmed this.
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 has imposed a media blackout after the attack, although the restriction doesn’t extend to officials, BBC reported.
Australian embassy officials are working with Turkish authorities to determine if any Australians are victims of the nightclub attack.
The attack again shook 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
The nightclub, one of Istanbul’s most iconic that is popular with locals and foreigners alike, overlooks the Bosphorus Strait separating Europe and Asia in the city’s cosmopolitan Ortakoy district.
Around 500 to 600 people were thought to have been inside when the gunman opened fire, broadcaster CNN Turk said. Some jumped into the waters of the Bosphorus to save themselves and were rescued by police
Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said the attacker had used a “long-range weapon” to “brutally and savagely” fire on people, apparently referring to some sort of assault rifle.
“One person first kills the police officer outside, and then a civilian,” the governor said. “Inside he rained bullets brutally, mercilessly over innocent people who were there just to celebrate the new year and have fun.”
People talk to medics in an ambulance near the scene of an attack in Istanbul. Photo: APThe Hurriyet newspaper cited witnesses as saying there were multiple attackers and that they shouted in Arabic.
Eyewitness Sinem Uyanik told the Associated Press she saw several bodies inside the Istanbul nightclub.
Her husband Lutfu Uyanik was wounded in the attack.
“Before I could understand what was happening, my husband fell on top me,” she said outside Istanbul’s Sisli Hospital. “I had to lift several bodies from on top of me before I could get out.”
Her husband was not in serious condition despite his wounds.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the shooting. The mass killing at the nightclub was at least the fourth major attack in Turkey in less than a month, raising questions about the ability of the government, a NATO member and critical regional ally of the United States, to counter an array of threats stemming from the war across Turkey’s border in Syria, as well as an escalating conflict with Kurdish militants inside Turkey.
An image, reportedly of one of the gunmen involved in the attack at the Istanbul nightclub.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would fight to the end against all forms of attack by terror groups and their backers.
“As a nation, we will fight to the end against not just the armed attacks of terror groups and the forces behind them, but also against their economic, political and social attacks,” Erdogan said in a written statement.
“They are trying to create chaos, demoralise our people, and destabilise our country with abominable attacks which target civilians … We will retain our cool-headedness as a nation, standing more closely together, and we will never give ground to such dirty games,” he said.
On the European side of the country’s capital, about 12km from Istanbul, the suburb of Ortakoy is an international travel destination known for its food stalls and vibrant night life. The area is a mix of stone, brick and wooden buildings along pedestrian lanes.
Mehmet Kocarslan, the club’s owner, told the Hurriyet.com.tr news site that there had been increased security at the club for the past 10 days after US intelligence officials shared information about the planned attack. He said the attackers used Kalashnikov rifles.
Television footage showed dozens of ambulances rushing to the scene, and people fleeing, some walking with difficulty arm in arm.
Footage from the scene showed at least six ambulances with flashing lights and civilians being escorted out. NTV said police had cordoned off the area and an operation to capture the assailant was ongoing.
An AP photographer says police cordoned off the area about three kilometres away from the nightclub and reported multiple ambulances passing by.
President Barack Obama expressed condolences on Saturday over the attack and directed his team to offer US help to Turkish authorities, the White House said.
“This afternoon the President was briefed by his national security team on the attack in Istanbul,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement.
“The President expressed condolences for the innocent lives lost, directed his team to offer appropriate assistance to the Turkish authorities, as necessary, and keep him updated as warranted.”
Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, responded on Twitter, saying his thoughts were with Turkey after this “cowardly act of terrorism”.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Turkish friends,” he added.
Security measures had been heightened in major Turkish cities, with police barring traffic leading up to key squares in Istanbul and the capital Ankara. In Istanbul, 17,000 police officers were put on duty, some camouflaged as Santa Claus and others as street vendors, state news agency Anadolu reported.
Ankara and Istanbul have been targeted by several attacks in 2016 carried out by the Islamic State group or Kurdish rebels, killing more than 180 people.
Turkey is still recovering from a failed coup attempt that began July 15 in which at least 265 people were killed.
Although the coup effort sputtered in a matter of hours, Mr Erdogan responded with a sweeping, months-long crackdown targeting alleged dissidents across Turkish society.
In addition to arresting thousands of military personnel suspected of involvement in the coup, hundreds of thousands of civil servants, educational staff and journalists were purged.
The coup and the assassination of the Russian Ambassador Andrey G. Karlov in Ankara on December 19 raised concerns that the country’s security establishment had grown ineffective.
The turmoil also raised doubts about how well Turkey would be able to participate in international counter-terrorism efforts, especially with regard to the Islamic State.
DPA/Reuters/AP/New York Times/Washington Post
39 dead in New Year ‘terror attack’ on Istanbul nightclub
A gunman shot his way into an Istanbul nightclub packed with New Year’s revellers early on Sunday, killing at least 39 people and wounding almost 70 others in what the provincial Governor described as a terrorist attack.
- Istanbul city governor condemned the “terrorist attack” on the popular Reina nightclub
- Around 500-600 people were thought to be in the club when the attack happened
- The attacker was believed to have entered the premises dressed as Santa Claus, local media reported
The assailant shot a police officer and a civilian as he entered the Reina nightclub before opening fire at random inside.
“A terrorist with a long-range weapon… brutally and savagely carried out this incident by firing bullets on innocent people who were there solely to celebrate the New Year and have fun,” Governor Vasip Sahin told reporters at the scene.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the attacker was still at large and 69 people were being treated in hospitals following the shooting.
Mr Soylu said of the victims identified so far, 16 were foreign nationals. He did not provide any information on their countries.
In a statement, President Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey would fight to the end against all forms of attack by terror groups and their backers.
“As a nation, we will fight to the end against not just the armed attacks of terror groups and the forces behind them, but also against their economic, political and social attacks,” he said.
“They are trying to create chaos, demoralise our people, and destabilise our country with abominable attacks which target civilians … we will retain our cool-headedness as a nation, standing more closely together, and we will never give ground to such dirty games,” he said.
‘I had to lift several bodies from on top of me’
Around 500-600 people were thought to have been in the club when the attack happened at around 1:15am local time, broadcaster CNN Turk said.
The club lies on the shore of the Bosphorus Strait in the Ortakoy district, and some jumped into the water to save themselves and were being rescued by police.
Police with riot gear and machine guns backed up by armoured vehicles blocked the area close to the Reina nightclub.
Witness Sinem Uyanik, whose husband Lutfu Uyanik was wounded in the attack, told AP she saw several bodies inside the nightclub.
“Before I could understand what was happening, my husband fell on top me,” she said outside Istanbul’s Sisli Hospital.
“I had to lift several bodies from on top of me before I could get out.”
The attacker was believed to have entered the nightclub dressed as Santa Claus, private NTV television reported earlier.
Broadcaster CNN Turk initially said the attacker was thought still to be inside the building and that police special forces were preparing to raid it. NTV said the attacker’s whereabouts were unclear.
Dozens of ambulances and police vehicles were dispatched to the club in Ortakoy, a cosmopolitan neighbourhood nestled under one of three bridges crossing the Bosphorus, and home to clubs, restaurants and art galleries.
DFAT determining if any Australians involved
The Department of Foreign Affairs said the Australian embassy in Ankara was liaising with local authorities to determine if any Australians were caught up in the attack.
Reina is one of Istanbul’s best-known nightclubs, popular with locals and tourists alike.
Security measures had been heightened in major Turkish cities, with police barring traffic leading up to key squares in Istanbul and the capital Ankara. In Istanbul, 17,000 police officers were put on duty, some camouflaged as Santa Claus and others as street vendors, Anadolu reported.
Ankara and Istanbul have been targeted by several attacks in 2016 carried out by the Islamic State (IS) group or Kurdish rebels, killing more than 180 people.
Turkey, part of the US-led coalition against IS, faces multiple security threats including spill-over from the war in neighbouring Syria.
It has seen repeated attacks and bombings blamed on IS as well as Kurdish militants in recent months.
US President Barack Obama “expressed condolences for the innocent lives lost”, and said assistance would be offered to Turkish authorities.
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag vowed that his country would press ahead with its fight against violent groups.
“Turkey will continue its determined and effective combat to root out terror,” Mr Bozdag said on Twitter.